MANILA, Philippines (AP) — More than half of Filipinos believe many of the suspects killed in President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs did not fight back as reported by police to justify the killings, according to an independent survey released Wednesday.
Social Weather Stations, or SWS, said 54 percent of 1,200 adult Filipinos it surveyed from June 23 to 26 agreed that many of those killed by police in the crackdown did not really put up resistance. The nationwide, face-to-face survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
SWS said 25 percent of those polled said they were undecided and the rest disagreed.
Duterte and police officials have denied allegations of extrajudicial killings by police enforcing his crackdown, which has left thousands of people dead since he became president last year.
Duterte, however, has publicly threatened suspected drug traffickers repeatedly with death. He warned drug pushers in a speech late Tuesday that if they are caught with a ton of methamphetamine, a prohibited drug, "you are dead."
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the SWS survey contained "leading and pointed questions that may have unduly influenced the answer of respondents" and urged pollsters "to exercise prudence and objectivity to arrive at a closer approximation of public sentiment."
Human Rights Watch said the survey results were not surprising and cited its own investigations that it said showed police and their agents really intended to kill suspects.
There has been a "critical mass of compelling evidence" gathered by HRW and the media "that clearly demonstrates that Philippine National Police personnel and their agents have for the past 15 months conducted an unlawful killing campaign under the cynical veneer of 'anti-drug' operations," the U.S.-based group said.