Palace dismisses claims drug war only targets the poor after Peter Lim’s suspected escape

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 1) — Malacañang on Thursday rejected fresh allegations that the administration’s drug war only targets the poor following reports that businessman and accused drug lord Peter Lim has fled the country.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque maintained the rich and the powerful are not spared from the crackdown on illegal drugs, as he assured of authorities' continued efforts to hunt down Lim.

The Department of Justice on Wednesday said there is no proof yet that the Cebu-based businessman has left the Philippines. While Lim earlier denied involvement in such operations, his whereabouts have been unknown since an arrest order was issued against him in August 2018 over his supposed links to the illegal drug trade.

Pangalawa po, nakakulong si Senator Leila De Lima, proof na ‘di lang po mahihirap ang tina-target dito sa war on drugs [Secondly, Senator Leila de Lima remains in jail, a proof that the war on drugs doesn’t only target the poor],” Roque added.

De Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte, has been in jail since 2017 on accusations she used drug money for her senatorial campaign in 2016, when she was Justice secretary. However, she has maintained the charges against her were fabricated to silence her for investigating the administration’s bloody anti-drug campaign.

Thousands of alleged drug personalities have been killed in police raids since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, although figures from the police are much lower than estimates from independent human rights groups. A non-commissioned survey in 2017 showed 60% of Filipinos believe well-off drug suspects get to live while the poor ones die in the government's crackdown.