MANILA: Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to publicly order police to end their war on drugs, which has led to the killings of thousands of suspects since the previous administration launched it in 2016.

The New York-based rights group noted that Marcos Jr vowed to shift the focus from cracking down on illegal drugs to rehabilitating users.

But the killings have continued and reforms have not been made to existing drug rehabilitation programmes, the group said in a statement, reported German Press Agency (dpa).

“President Marcos keeps telling foreign leaders that he’s ready to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines, but this is not going to happen so long as the police kill suspected drug users with impunity,“ said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy Asia director.

“Marcos has a golden opportunity to prove that he is serious about human rights by ordering the end of the drug war,“ he added.

Police reported that 46 suspects have been killed in anti-illegal drug operations since July 1, the day after Marcos Jr was sworn in, until Nov 7.

An independent tally by the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Centre placed the deaths at 127 during the same period.

The war on drugs was launched by former president Rodrigo Duterte after he was elected president in 2016 on an anti-crime platform.

Police said more than 6,000 people have been killed in anti-illegal drug operations during Duterte’s administration. Human rights groups have alleged that the death toll could be three times higher than that number. - Bernama

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