The Philippines’ police chief on Friday stood by anti-narcotics officers and rejected a Reuters investigation that pointed to a pattern of police sending corpses of drug suspects to hospitals to destroy crime scene evidence and hide executions.
President Rodrigo Duterte took office in the Philippines a year ago, launching a bloody war on drugs that has killed thousands of Filipinos.
In a television interview to mark the anniversary, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa appeared irritated by questions about the Reuters report, published on Thursday, and said police carrying out anti-drugs operations had a duty to save lives, even when encountering violent resistance, reports Reuters.
He said police were not medically qualified to determine whether a victim was dead or alive and sent victims to hospital as part of operational procedure.
“What do you want, we let the wounded die? You don’t want us to rescue his life?” he told news channel ANC.
The Reuters investigation analyzed crime data from two of Metro Manila’s five police districts and included accounts of doctors, witnesses, law enforcement officials and victims’ families.
It showed a pattern of police sending dead bodies to hospitals, preventing thorough crime scene investigations from taking place after the killing of drug suspects. [nL8N1JQ2NQ]
Dela Rosa said Reuters, which has produced a series of in-depth reports into the war on drugs that have questioned official accounts, was “looking for faults” in the police.
“PNP is damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Reuters really is looking for faults in us. We have to stand by our police operational procedure that in case of an encounter, if a person is not yet declared dead by the physician, you need to bring him to the hospital.”
He added: “Who are the policemen to say they are dead? They are not medical practitioners. If we did not bring them to the hospitals, the relatives might sue us.”
A spokeswoman for Reuters said the news agency stood by its reporting.
Duterte’s bloody campaign has been condemned by human rights groups and alarmed Western countries due to the high death toll and allegations of systematic extrajudicial killings and cover-ups by police. The PNP rejects those allegations.