Philippine police have killed four suspected drug dealers on Tuesday in three separate incidents, a few hours after the relaunch of anti-drugs operations, a provincial police commander said. Last week, Ronald dela Rosa, the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief announced the restart of operations and hoped that it would be less bloody "or even bloodless". But, the latest deaths were the first reported deaths of drug suspects.
According to Senior Superintendent Romeo Caramat, three suspected drug peddlers were shot dead in the early hours of Tuesday when they resisted arrest after selling packets of "shabu" methamphetamine to undercover officers in two towns in Bulacan, north of Manila.
The official added that a fourth man was killed when he confronted police manning a checkpoint. Three handguns and drugs were recovered from him.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in the nationwide anti-drugs crackdown since Duterte took over office seven months ago. According to police, some 2,555 are shootouts during raids and sting operations.
The human rights groups believe that many of the others were extra-judicial executions committed in cooperation with the police. But, the Duterte administration has vehemently denied those allegations.
The PNP insists that it had no involvement in the rest of the killings and deny activists' allegations that many of the deaths, most unsolved and in mysterious circumstances, were assassinations of drug suspects with police complicity.
The PNP's reinstatement came after a month-long suspension of police involvement in the campaign. President Rodrigo Duterte pulled police back from his crackdown in the wake of the killing by rogue drugs squad police of a South Korean businessman.
But, Duterte recalled the police for the campaign because the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) lacked the manpower to stem what the PNP says are signs of drugs returning to the streets. Dela Rosa said, "clean, dedicated and patriotic" officers would form the new drug enforcement unit under his command.
The crackdown has always been an issue of concern among the Western governments and the United Nations.