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Philippine police force kills six mayor supporters over drugs

MANILA: Police yesterday shot dead six supporters of a Philippine mayor days after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to have him “shot on sight” for protecting his allegedly drug-dealing son. Hundreds of people have died since Duterte won a landslide election on a pledge to wipe out lawlessness by killing tens of thousands of criminals. A gunfight broke out between law enforcers and supporters of mayor Rolando Espinosa at dawn yesterday outside his property in the central town of Albuera on Leyte island, police said. “The incident this morning is connected to the current investigation pertaining to the involvement of the mayor and his son in the illegal drugs trade,” national police spokesman Dionaldo Carlos told reporters. He said six gunmen were killed while police recovered 17 guns and several grenades.

On Monday Duterte gave Espinosa and his son 24 hours to surrender after police arrested five of the mayor’s bodyguards and employees in a drug sting operation. “Otherwise, an order of ‘shoot on sight’ will be given if they resist and endanger the lives of arresting police officers,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on television. The mayor surrendered to police on Tuesday. The son is at large. The mayor “surrendered to me… (following) orders of the president for him to be shot on sight if he resists,” said national police chief Ronald de la Rosa.

Over 400 killed
Police claim to have killed more than 400 suspected drug dealers in the month since Duterte took office, but rights groups fear the total could be far higher as vigilantes have joined the spree. Photos of one vigilante’s victims being cradled by his weeping girlfriend at a busy Manila intersection last week have gone viral, helping raise awareness of the rising body count that has shocked the world. The victim, pedicab driver Michael Siaron, was laid to rest at a public cemetery in Manila yesterday in a low-key funeral attended by his sobbing girlfriend and several dozen relatives.

Hundreds of anti-narcotics and human rights groups from around the world called Tuesday for the United Nations to condemn Duterte’s policy. Police chief de la Rosa said Mayor Espinosa had been listed in police records as a “drug protector” whose son controlled the narcotics trade in the Albuera region. “If you’re listening now Kerwin, your father has already surrendered so you should follow your father,” de la Rosa said in a bizarre live news conference with Espinosa. “If you don’t surrender you will die, so better surrender because your life is really in danger.” The mayor was the second high-profile drug suspect to turn himself in after being accused by Duterte of drugs-related crimes.

Last month, also on national television, Duterte told a businessman at a meeting he would “finish you off” unless he stopped dealing in drugs. The businessman denied the allegations. Police said more than 100,000 other people have also surrendered to the local authorities and pledged to stop using illegal drugs. – AFP

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