Drug death toll nears 2,000

UN drugs boss Agnes Callamard has managed to offend to offend Rodrigo Duterte, adding her name to an increasingly long list. Source: Flickr

Approaching 2,000 people have been killed since Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in on June 30 and launched his so-called war on crime, according to his national police chief.

Duterte claimed that the majority of the 756 people confirmed killed by the police were drug suspects resisting arrest, with many others dying due to gang members waging war against each other.

Human rights groups and MPs say the authorities are responsible for a wave of unreported, extrajudicial killings.

This month the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of extrajudicial killings.

Duterte criticised Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on summary execution.  She said Duterte was violating international law and he branding her “ambitious” and “brainless”.

Duterte said Callamard had accused him of genocide, which she had not.

“That’s the invention of a woman who wants to commit suicide,” Duterte said, in his usual cryptic fashion. “You can think of genocide, suicide or what, side by side, upper side, whatever, what if upper side or even upside?”

Duterte and his team have said not to believe everything the tough-talking head of state says.

He has promised 100,000 deaths with so many bodies floating in Manila Bay that the fish would grow fat on them. He also told a reporter he had killed three people himself.

A spokesman said Duterte’s humour and abusive comments were because he was Cebuano, referring to the central and southern Philippines.

“The Cebuano subculture speaks in a very rough kind of humour,” his aide said.

The government said Duterte had instructed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to lift all taxes considered to be anti-poor or gender-biased.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte raised the matter during a cabinet discussion on tax reform in Malacañang.

“The president directed [Dominguez] to take steps to remove tax versions that are anti-poor and gender-biased,” Abella told the media.

Duterte apparently wanted “a simplification of the tax-reform strategy.”

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the administration would remove several products from the scope of the 12-per-cent value-added tax.

“[These] will all be lifted or be removed from the list and the only ones that will remain would have to do with the raw food, health, medicine … and education,” the minister said.