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Philippine Mayor Accused Of Drug Ties Killed By Police

| by Sarah Zimmerman

A Philippine mayor and nine others were killed in a shoot-out with police for suspected involvement in the illegal drug trade.

Mayor of the southern town Saudi Ampatuan, Samsudin Dimaukom, was one of 150 officials accused of being involved the drug trade by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in a speech earlier this year. Al Jazeera reports that Duterte explicitly named the officers, judges, mayors and other officials, saying that they can either turn themselves in to the police or be hunted down in cold blood. 

Dimaukom was one of the 18 mayors to turn himself in, according to The New York Times, but denied any involvement with the drug trade, saying that he actually supported the president's war on drugs.

"Not once were we involved in drugs," said Dimaukom in an e-mail to the Times. "In fact, we were fighting drugs. I support the president’s drug war."

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Duterte implemented a shoot-to-kill policy in late June, encouraging police and vigilantes to hunt down anybody suspected of selling or transporting drugs. So far, 3,800 people have been killed, according to Al Jazeera. 

Dimaukom seems to be only the latest casualty. On Oct. 28, police responded to a tip claiming that Dimaukom was to transport large amounts of methamphetamine from Duterte's home town of Davao city to Saudi Ampatuan. 

Police spokesman Superintendent Romeo Galgo claims that Dimaukom, along with members of his security personnel, opened fire on police when they were stopped at a checkpoint. Officers returned fire and killed all men in the vehicle. No officers were reported injured.

"Suspects [were] heavily armed and fired upon the law enforcers, which prompted them to fire back," said Galgo.

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But, Al Jazeera reports that when Dimaukom's compound was searched by police at an earlier date, no drugs were found. 

Duterte's deadly war on drugs has drawn criticism from around the world, with the U.S., the U.N. and, most recently, the European Union condemning his policies and demanding an end to the violence. But, according to The New York Times, the crackdown is immensely popular within the Philippines itself, with residents saying that they feel safer than ever before.

A poll in late September shows that 83 percent of Filipinos had "much trust" in Duterte, the Times reports. 

“His initiatives, and this includes the antidrug campaign, are well received by the people,” Ramon C. Casiple, head of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said. “They don’t have an impact on the overall perception of his administration or presidency.”

Sources: Al Jazeera, The New York Times (2) / Photo credit: Secretive Ireland/Flickr

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