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Philippine police face lawsuit campaign over drug killings

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A group of Philippine human rights lawyers filed murder complaints Tuesday against eight policemen accused of killing a father and his son last year at the start of a campaign to bring lawsuits against enforcers of the president's deadly anti-drug crackdown for alleged extrajudicial killings.

Lawyer Maria Kristina Conti said the murder complaints her group filed in behalf of Mary Ann Domingo against the policemen led by Superintendent Ali Jose Duterte will be followed by more lawsuits from families of poor victims of alleged extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte's crackdown.

Domingo's husband and son were gunned down in their house in suburban Caloocan city in metropolitan Manila by the policemen in September in what they claimed was a gunbattle with drug suspects but which she said was a brazen rubout.

Several protesters, carrying placards that read: "Stop killing the poor," gathered outside the office of the government Ombudsman, who prosecutes officials accused of corruption and other crimes, as Domingo and her lawyers filed the complaints.

It's not immediately clear if Duterte, the police officer, is related to the president. Conti said her group, the National Union of People's Lawyers, did not pick the case to launch their campaign against extrajudicial killings because the main suspect was a namesake of the president.

"The filing of the charges against the policemen involved in the killing ... is just the beginning," Conti said. Other criminal cases would be filed "in coordination with community organizations and church groups as part of a mounting grassroots campaign against recent rampant human rights violations committed under the ambit of the government's so-called war against drugs."

More than 8,000 mostly small-time drug suspects have been gunned down by policemen and unidentified gunmen since Duterte launched his brutal campaign after taking office in June. Duterte has denied condoning unlawful killings but has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death in public speeches.

Duterte has assured policemen he would defend them if they run into lawsuits while cracking down on illegal drugs.

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