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7 'nanlaban' drug suspects dead after Baste Duterte declares drug war

MANILA, Philippines — Less than a week after Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte declared a "war on drugs" in the city, at least seven drug suspects were killed during a buy-bust operation — violence that highlights the seriousness of the mayor's recent threat of outright killing persons caught using illegal drugs.

Duterte last week issued a warning against persons using illegal drugs during the turnover ceremony of the new Davao City police chief: "Kung hindi kayo aalis, kung hindi kayo titigil, papatayin ko kayo," according to a Frontline Pilipinas news report.

(If you will not go, if you will not stop, I will kill you.)

Duterte's warning came after he declared a "war against drugs" in the city due to an alleged uptick in drug use in barangays. He did not cite the specific barangays with reports of illegal drug use.

On Thursday, the death toll from Davao police's renewed campaign against illegal drugs had climbed to seven, with authorities claiming that the drug suspects died after fighting it out with law enforcement.  

Despite the renewed publicity for Davao City's war against drugs, these recent deaths add on to the more than 15 drug-related killings that have already taken place since January, based on the monitoring group Dahas Project of the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center. As of March 26, Davao City is a "top hotspot" for drug-related killings, according to Dahas.

Seven cops have since been relieved from their positions in connection to the incident, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said on Wednesday. The PNP Internal Affairs Service has also started its investigation into the killings.

The Commission on Human Rights has denounced the incident and ordered its regional office in Davao to conduct a probe into the alleged extrajudicial killings associated with the anti-drug campaign in Davao City.

In a statement, the rights body said the acts constitute grave violations of human rights and go against the principles of rule of law.

"Using extrajudicial means undermines the rule of law and destroys faith in legal systems, ultimately hindering genuine efforts to address the root causes of drug-related problems in the country,” the