July 8 (UPI) -- Police in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte have carried out unchecked extrajudicial executions with impunity, in the poorest neighborhoods, as part of his war on drugs, Amnesty International said in a new report Monday.
The human rights agency called on the United Nations to investigate the Duterte regime for what it described as a wave of police killings under the banner of Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign.
"President Duterte's 'war on drugs' continues to be nothing but a large-scale murdering enterprise for which the poor continue to pay the highest price," Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International regional director for East and Southeast Asia, said in a statement. "It is time for the United Nations, starting with its Human Rights Council, to act decisively to hold President Duterte and his government accountable."
The Amnesty report said police have admitted to at least 6,600 killings, but evidence suggests there may be thousands more.
Other human rights groups have put the toll from the Philippines campaign at more than 27,000 -- with some involving undercover officers or contract killers.
"It is not safe to be poor in President Duterte's Philippines," Bequelin added. "All it takes to be murdered is an unproven accusation that someone uses, buys, or sells drugs. Everywhere we went to investigate drug-related killings ordinary people were terrified."
"[Expletive] happens during operations," Filipino Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former police chief under Duterte, said. "Honest to goodness, there are some collateral damage."
Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo has rejected calls for a U.N. investigation, saying it would be an "outrageous interference" on the nation's sovereignty.