MANILA, PHILIPPINES — A Philippine police officer has been found guilty of killing two teenagers during former president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war, court documents showed Tuesday, in a rare conviction of one of the crackdown’s enforcers.
During his six-year term, which ended in June 2022, Duterte openly ordered police to shoot dead drug suspects if officers’ lives were in danger.
More than 6,200 people died in the anti-narcotics campaign, according to official figures, but rights groups estimate the actual figure was in the tens of thousands.
Only three police officers had previously been convicted for killing a suspect during the crackdown, which sparked an investigation at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
On 1 March, a Manila court ruled that Jefrey Perez was guilty of murdering Reynaldo De Guzman, 14, and Carl Arnaiz, 19, in 2017, according to a verdict seen by AFP.
Perez was sentenced to a minimum 20 years behind bars.
He was already serving a lengthy jail sentence after being found guilty by a different court in November of torturing the two teenagers.
His co-accused, police officer Ricky Arquilita, died during the first trial. Both denied the charges.
De Guzman and Arnaiz were last seen together on 17 August 2017.
During the trials, a witness said he saw a police car parked on the side of a road and watched as a handcuffed Arnaiz alighted from the vehicle with hands raised, shouting “I will surrender” before the police officers shot him.
The body of De Guzman was found weeks later north of Manila. It had dozens of stab wounds.
President Ferdinand Marcos, who succeeded Duterte, has vowed to pursue the drug war but focus on prevention and rehabilitation.
However, rights groups say the killings have continued under his watch.
The ICC said in January it would resume its probe into the drug war because its pre-trial chamber was “not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the court’s investigations”.
Manila has appealed the decision.