On Tuesday, Wells described how police officers are paid under-the-table for "encounters" with drug traffickers where "offenders are killed," and that there is a pay scale for killing drug sellers and users. Vigilantes are also handed hit lists of suspects in the drug trade by police. They carry out the killings for the police, offering them some mode of cover.
Many of the killings are made at night, through home invasions or drive-by shootings. The "modus operandi" of the police is to barge in the door of a home of a suspect at night; in the encounter, the suspect is shot but the police can use the cover of darkness to claim that the suspect was the initial aggressor, Phelim Kine, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said.
More and more citizens have begun sleeping in the streets to be witnesses, taking video of the incidents to ensure that the truth is documented.
A Reuters investigation had uncovered "payments for killings" by police to vigilantes, and showed significant evidence that a "license to kill" had been granted from high levels of government, Wells said.
All this has been an "economy of murder created by the war on drugs, with the police at the center," Wells said. And there is "scant accountability," he said, as there have been no convictions of police officers in drug killings and the family members of those killed "face obstacle after obstacle" in seeking justice.
The testimony of a survivor of an extralegal killing, 29 year-old Efren Morillo, was also submitted to the record. Morillo is the lead petitioner before the Philippine Supreme Court in the first case against Operation Plan Tokhang.
Morillo described being at a friend's house when five men and two women in civilian clothes arrived, armed with guns. They detained five members of the group and accused them of selling illegal drugs. Morillo recognized some of the men as police officers in civilian clothes. The armed men then shot the five civilians.
The Philippine bishops have been outspoken against the increase in killings, referring to it as a "reign of terror" in a Jan. 30 pastoral letter.
"If we neglect the drug addicts and pushers we have become part of the drug problem, if we consent or allow the killing of suspected drug addicts, we shall also be responsible for their deaths," the bishops said.
"We cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong," they said. "A good purpose is not a justification for using evil means. It is good to remove the drug problem, but to kill in order to achieve this is also wrong."
Duterte, however, responded to the letter by saying "You Catholics, if you believe in your priests and bishops, you stay with them," while adding that "if you want to go to heaven, then go to them. Now, if you want to end drugs ... I will go to hell, come join me."
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Duterte has also "openly threatened human rights defenders" and "attacked the media and lawyers who have represented the families of extrajudicial killings," Carlos said on Tuesday.
Catholic priests have also offered their churches as "sanctuaries" for those who believe they are on the police hit lists, the Guardian reported in February.