A spokesperson for the president of the Philippines has rejected claims that police officers have been receiving cash in exchange for killing drug suspects.
Two senior officers critical of Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” told the Reuters news agency that many of the 9,000 people killed since June had been shot by police disguised as vigilantes – with evidence planted at crime scenes.
But the president’s office rejected the claims.
“There is no truth in the allegation that there is a coordinated effort to kill drug suspects. The so-called officers interviewed must be living movie scenes,” said a spokesperson.
It follows a report by a retired intelligence official that police are being paid 10,000 pesos (£156) to kill rapists, gang members, alcoholics and pickpockets – and double that to take the lives of those suspected of drug crimes.
The police have acknowledged that more than 2,600 suspects have been shot dead over the past nine months, but maintain most of those shootings happened after a suspect opened fire on undercover officers trying to catch them dealing drugs.
Yet according to an active police commander interviewed by Reuters, many of these so-called “buy-busts” are actually well-planned executions – with local officials switching off street lamps and unplugging security cameras in advance.
The commander, speaking anonymously, said targeted suspects are almost always unarmed, so guns and drugs are planted at the scene to justify deadly force and a firearm either placed in the suspect’s hand or close to their bodies.
Many are allegedly performed by junior officers looking to become more experienced, but who are also in fear that they might end up being included on a “watch list” of drug suspects if they fail to cooperate.
The report, which has not been fully verified, claims police officers receive 20,000 pesos (£312) for killing a “street-level pusher and user, one million pesos (£15,637) for “distributors, retailers and wholesalers”, and as much as five million pesos (£78,186) for drug lords.
In its statement, the president’s office denied the report’s existence altogether and added that police were “not in the business of hiring assassins”.
It also challenged the intelligence officer and the commander to go public and make their remarks under oath.
A police spokesman said the claims would be investigated but questioned their plausibility because the police do not have the funds to offer such cash rewards.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has demanded an investigation and said police officers who have “broken their vow to protect the Filipino people” should be punished.