The death came three days after the principal prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested a full investigation into the bloody war on drugs in the Philippines.
Manila: A former mayor accused of being a drug trafficker in the Philippines died Thursday after attempting to grab a gun from officers while being taken into custody in the capital Manila.
Montaser Sabal, a former mayor of the southern city of Talite, was arrested late Wednesday along with three of his accomplices as they prepared to depart from the port of Batangas, south of Manila. Mr. Sabal’s brother, Abdul Wahab Sabal, who was also a mayor, was shot dead outside a hotel in Manila last year.
Both men were “narco politicians” among the 44 mayors, deputy mayors and other officials identified by President Rodrigo Duterte in May 2019. More than half of those on the list have already been killed by police in similar circumstances, with officials saying the suspects resisted arrest and attempted to grab the officers’ firearms.
Police said Mr Sabal had “held the service firearms of a police escort” while they were being transported.
National Police Chief General Guillermo Eleazar said Mr Sabal was a “high-value target”, a former police commando trained in bomb disposal. In addition to drug trafficking, General Eleazar said Mr. Sabal was suspected of providing materials used in the 2016 bombing that killed 14 people at a night market in Mr. Duterte’s hometown of Davao City. was.
It was not clear why Mr. Sabal was not stopped while being taken into custody. A full investigation is underway, General Eleazar said.
Mr Sabal’s death came three days after the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, asked the court to launch a full investigation into Mr Duterte’s bloody war on drugs that began after he took office in June 2016.
Ms Bensouda’s office was investigating the drug war until March 2019, when Mr Duterte’s government pulled out of the international treaty establishing the court. But Mr. Duterte’s decision to leave the treaty will not prevent the court from fully investigating crimes committed during the years when his country was a signatory.
“After a thorough preliminary investigation process, available information indicates that members of the Philippine National Police and others working closely with them have unlawfully murdered between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians” in a brutal antidrug campaign. In a statement on Monday, Ms. Bensouda said.
She said there was reason to believe that some of the perpetrators of the killings were either police officers themselves or “private citizens who were recruited, coordinated and paid by the police to kill civilians.”
In her request, Ms Bensouda wrote that the total number of civilians killed in the drug war from July 2016 to March 2019 “appears to be between 12,000 and 30,000.” The Philippine government claims the number to be around 8,000.
“Police and other government officials planned, ordered, and sometimes directly committed extrajudicial killings. They reward police officers and vigilance officers for extra-judicial killings,” the request said. at the highest level of” was encouraged by the authorities.
Responding to Ms Bensouda’s court request, Mr Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the president would “never cooperate” with the court’s investigation, calling it “politically motivated”. Mr Roque said anyone killed “in a legitimate operation” as part of the country’s war on drugs could be considered “collateral damage” because police officers have a right to defend themselves in the line of duty.