Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as president of the Philippines on June 30 after being elected on May 10. He has cracked down on illegal drugs since he came into power. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Duterte
MANILA, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Several hundred people have been killed in a drug crackdown since Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in May.
A total of 704 people have been killed for their involvement with drugs from May 10 to July 29, according to data from the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group. The New York Times listed 420 in tallies of police reports by the local news media.
The "war on drugs" has been criticized by human rights activists.
More than 300 international non-government organiations and human rights groups called on the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Narcotics Control Board to condemn the ongoing "senseless killing," according to a joint letter Monday.
"The approach taken by President Duterte clearly deviates from these important global norms for the implementation of drug control policies," the letter said. "With many more lives at stake, it is of critical importance for the UNODC and INCB as global authorities on international drug control to demand an end to the atrocities currently taking place in the Philippines, and to state unequivocally that such actions do not constitute acceptable drug control measures."
Human rights advocates claim drug users are being forced into compulsory rehabilitation in military facilities and private rehabilitation clinics are too expensive.
"International drug control agencies need to make clear to Philippines' President Roderigo Duterte that the surge in killings of suspected drug dealers and users is not acceptable 'crime control,' but instead a government failure to protect people's most fundamental human rights," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "President Duterte should understand that passive or active government complicity with those killings would contradict his pledge to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law."
He told the New York Times, "These are not the wealthy and powerful drug lords who actually have meaningful control over supply of drugs on the streets in the Philippines."
Duterte has urged vigilante killings of drug-involved suspects and said that "rehab is no longer an option." Many drug users are being killed even though there is no proof of being involved in drug trafficking.
During his first State of the Nation address last week before Congress, Duterte reiterated his approach, ordering the police to "triple" their efforts against crime.
Duterte, who is known as the "The punisher," won the presidency on a populist, anti-crime platform promising to kill drug dealers, after arresting petty criminals as the mayor of Davao City, the Philippines' third largest city.
A national opinion poll after his election found that 84 percent of Filipinos had "much trust" in him. He was inaugurated on June 30.
The New York Times reported 114,833 people have turned themselves in as drug addicts or dealers, according to national police logs.
More than 2,700 people have been on charges related to using or selling illegal drugs, and crime nationwide has fallen 13 percent since the election to 46,600 reported crimes in June.