December 18, 2017 / 8:40 AM / a year ago

Philippine Congress backs body cameras for police in bloody war on drugs

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine Congress approved a bill that removes a proposed 900 million pesos ($17.87 million) for the police war on drugs, now that police are no longer leading the operation, but which provides them with body cameras to record arrests.

Senator Loren Legarda, the head of senate’s finance committee, said on Monday that Congress re-allotted the police-requested budget because the Drug Enforcement Agency was now leading the controversial war on drugs in which thousand of suspected dealers and users have been killed.

The bill, approved by Congress last week, is expected to be endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who launched the crackdown, on Tuesday.

Duterte this month ordered the police to return to the drugs war, following a near eight-week layoff, but in a supporting role only.

Most of the money steered away from the war on drugs would go towards military and police housing, and the balance would be used to buy body cameras for police engaged in anti-drug operations.

“Maybe they would be fearful if they are monitored, to lessen if not totally eliminate untoward incidents,” Legarda told the ANC news channel.

The anti-narcotics crackdown has drawn international criticism, with rights groups pointing out lapses in police operations and alleged executions of drug suspects.

Police say they have shot dead more than 3,900 drug suspects in self-defence during the 17-month campaign, but surveys have showed doubts among Filipinos about the validity of police accounts.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Nick Macfie

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