MANILA (Reuters) - A Philippine senator called for a probe on Wednesday into allegations by senior officers in a Reuters report that police received cash rewards for executing drug suspects, while a police spokesman challenged the claims but said they would be investigated.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said in a statement that the Philippine National Police (PNP) should take "drastic measures" to verify the allegations made by two senior police officers, and punish those who have "broken their vow to protect the Filipino people."
In a Reuters report published on Tuesday, the two officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said PNP officers received cash for killing suspects in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war, planted evidence at crime scenes and carried out most of the killings they have long blamed on vigilantes.
One of the men, a retired intelligence officer, authored an unpublished 26-page report that provides granular detail on the alleged methods deployed in the drug war, as well as the campaign's masterminds and perpetrators. The report, which said it is based on the accounts of 17 serving and former officers, does not contain any documentary evidence.
Gatchalian said the "integrity" of the police was "at stake," and called on PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa to "unmask the truth."
"The PNP leadership should look into these serious allegations made by two officers from within their ranks. While the charges lack documentary evidence, these cannot simply be swept under the rug with a blanket denial," he said.
PNP spokesman Dionardo Carlos said he encouraged the two police officers interviewed by Reuters to come forward and publicly air their allegations. "There's no problem if they will tell the truth, backed up by evidence," he said.
Carlos said claims that cash rewards were being paid for killing drug suspects were implausible, because police would not have that kind of money at their disposal and such acts would be unlawful.
"First of all, that's illegal, prohibited. Second, we are short on funds and nothing was allocated," he told reporters.
Close to 9,000 people, mostly drug users and small-time dealers, have been killed since Duterte took office almost 10 months ago and promised an unrelenting campaign to rid the Philippines of illicit narcotics.
Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defense during anti-drug operations. Human rights groups believe many of the remaining two thirds were killed by paid assassins cooperating with the police or by police themselves, disguised as vigilantes. Police reject that.
The two officers said that most of the drug-war killings are orchestrated by the police, including those they say are carried out by vigilantes. Reuters was unable to independently verify if the police are behind vigilante killings.
One of the officers, an active-duty police commander, also said that officers plant drugs and guns at the scene of deadly narcotics busts.
Gatchalian said the officers who spoke to Reuters should present concrete evidence to support their claims. "Accusations of this kind should have solid backing," he said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief, said in a text message to GMA news, one of the leading media organizations in the Philippines, that unless Reuters identified the two police officers and they could provide "convincing proof of their allegations," he would dismiss the report as "gossip."
(Reporting by Martin Petty and Manuel Mogato. Edited by Peter Hirschberg.)