'When one squeals, a fellow pusher will be angry because that means we would have identified a witness,' says Cebu City police director Joel Doria
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Of the 97 killings of drug suspects by unknown assailants in the region, only one suspect, so far, has been arrested.
Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Chief Superintendent Joel Doria believes he has evidence to pin down drug syndicates as behind the attacks.
"We have proof that one that we caught near Station 6, the one that killed a drug suspect, admitted that he did that because he [victim] was going to squeal to the police," Doria told reporters in a press conference on Friday, August 26.
"The suspect, Ronald Udto, is the suspect of the shooting of Rogelio Cabasa. We followed up because he admitted that he killed the victim because he was going to provide information to the police," Doria added.
Cabasa was gunned down in Barangay Pasil in this city on Thursday night.
Cabasa is among the thousands who have surrendered to the police under Oplan Tokhang, a combination of the Visayan words "toktok" and "hangyo" or knock and request. This is a part of the national government's aggressive campaign in ending drug use and crime in 3 to 6 months.
"We do not condone killings by vigilantes," Doria said in Filipino. "That should be the work of police. But what happens is, when one squeals, a fellow pusher will be angry because that means we would have identified a witness."
"Sila-sila naggagantihan (They're killing each other)," Doria said, adding that the police would be presenting evidence to the public at a later time.
This echoed the suspicion of regional director Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Chief Superintendent Noli Taliño, who said in a press conference on Thursday, August 25, that the drug suspects themselves are behind the mysterious killings.
"Maybe they are being suspected or have gone mad? They themselves are cleaning up, maybe later, one would snitch to the police?" Taliño said in Filipino.
There have been other cases of attacks on drug surrenderees elsewhere. These drug suspects are part of a list made public by the police. (READ: Collateral damage: 5-yr-old latest fatality in war on drugs)
In the Central Visayas, over 70,000 drug users and pushers have voluntarily surrendered to the police. Authorities, however, have no rehabilitation facilities for them, so they are just made to register with the local police, and then return home.
"We are trying to have them rehabilitated, but we have nowhere to put them," Doria said.
Cebu City South District Representative Rodrigo Abellanosa has proposed to open a rehabilitation center in Barangay Labangon. Presidential Assistant to the Visayas Michael Dino said that his office would work with private hospitals in creating rehabilitation programs for those who have surrendered. (READ: Cebu private hospitals tapped to help treat drug suspects)
According to the Philippine National Police's National Operations Center, Central Visayas is among the top performers in anti-drug operations.
Records show that from July 1 to August 22, Central Visayas police have conducted 751 anti-illegal drug operations, leading to the arrest of 1,130 people. Over 1,000 drug cases have been filed in court, while police confiscated P26.5 million worth of methamphetamine, locally known as shabu.