Duterte's war on drugs: Philippine police tell one story of a drug killing, CCTV tells another

Duterte's war on drugs: Philippine police tell one story of a drug killing, CCTV tells another

Duterte's war on drugs: Philippine police tell one story of a drug killing, CCTV tells another

Updated 28 November 2017, 22:30 AEDT

A police report in the Philippines says anti-drug officers shot and injured three men in self-defence then "rushed" them to hospital.

The police report was clear. Anti-drug officers shot and injured three men in a poor district of the Philippine capital, then "rushed" them to hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival.

But security camera footage obtained by Reuters tells a different story of what happened just after midday on October 11 in Barangay (district) 19.

It shows that police took at least 25 minutes to haul away the men they had shot.

The victims show no signs of life; police are seen carrying them by their arms and legs and loading their limp bodies onto pedicabs to take them to hospital.

The footage casts new doubts on the official accounts of police killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's 17-month war on drugs.

In June, it was revealed that police have shot hundreds of people during anti-drug operations, then taken them to hospitals where they are declared dead on arrival.

Police say they are trying to save lives.

But bereaved relatives and other witnesses allege police are sending corpses to hospitals to disrupt crime scenes and cover up extrajudicial killings.

Police caught moving camera

Police have shot dead at least 3,900 people in anti-narcotic operations since Mr Duterte took power in June 2016 — always in self-defence, police say.

Human rights activists blame police for thousands more killings attributed to vigilantes, but authorities deny any involvement.

A witness to the Barangay 19 killings said the three men were executed and not, as the police claim, shot in self-defence.

Police say they only use deadly force in self-defence, but a series of investigations suggest they are summarily executing people.

The security camera footage not only contradicts the police account of the Barangay 19 killings.

It also provides further evidence of another drug-war tactic: the disabling of surveillance cameras at crime scenes by the police.

In the footage, filmed simultaneously by four security cameras, an officer is seen turning the camera that captured the action away from the scene.

An active-duty commander involved in the drug war said earlier this year that police collude with local officials to unplug security cameras in areas where they plan to carry out a drug-war killing.

Officers followed procedure, police say

A station investigation showed that his officers had followed correct operational procedure, said Santiago Pascual, the commander of the station that conducted the raid.

The report said Rolando Campo, 60, sold drugs to an undercover officer, who signalled for back-up.

Campo "sensed the presence" of the police officers and ordered his two associates — Sherwin Bitas, 34, and Ronnie Cerbito, 18 — to draw their guns and open fire on them, the report said.

The police retaliated, leaving the three men "fatally wounded", it said.

But the footage shows Campo chatting with people in the neighbourhood in the minutes before the police arrive, and not, as the report said, selling drugs to an undercover officer.

The police operation does not seem to be undercover.

The footage shows mainly plainclothes officers, most of them visibly armed and some wearing body armour, entering the area through the alley on which Campo and Bitas lived.

The officers pass in full view of the victims' house seven minutes before the shooting starts.

Arlene Gibaga, Bitas' wife, said she witnessed the shooting and the three men were unarmed.

"We don't have the money for guns," said Ms Gibaga, who has three young children with Bitas.

She said her husband did not deal drugs.

Police detained the men in an alley next to her house, she said, and asked her to get Bitas' ID.

When she produced it, said Ms Gibaga, one officer shouted "Positive! Positive!" and then the officers fired on Bitas.

"Don't do that to my husband!" she screamed, as the police shot Bitas.

The footage does not show the police shooting the three men, but does show an officer appearing to open fire on an unseen target.

Campo then falls backwards into the frame, his body hitting the ground.

Later that day, Ms Gibaga said officers told her it was useless to complain.

"It's the Government you will be fighting against," she recalled one officer saying.

"Don't get angry at us. We are just following orders."

Reuters