Solicitor General Jose Calida insisted on the legality of the police killings and encouraged further deaths of those involved in the drug trade. One of the latest, an alleged drug dealer was shot dead in Manila on 8 July, wearing a placard reading "I'm a pusher".

Human rights lawyers are alarmed at the draconian law and order crackdown which they say may becoming out of control. Calida sprang to the defence of the president, who is under attack at the ferocity of the killing spree, as the AFP reports that over 110 suspects have been killed since Duterte came to power.

"To me, that is not enough," said a belligerent Calida during a press conference on Monday 11 July at the national police headquarters. "How many drug addicts or pushers are there in the Philippines? Our villages are almost saturated [with drugs]."

Calida, who was appointed by Duterte, said he would protect police. "I am here to encourage the [police] not to be afraid of any congressional or senate investigations. We will defend them... I am the defender of the [police]," he said.

"It is difficult, and it is dangerous to the lives of our police officers to arrest these drug-crazed offenders. They are also armed and even if they are not armed, because of their mental condition, they will do everything to kill the police officers," Calida said.

Jose Manuel Diokno, one of the country's top human rights lawyers said that Duterte had "spawned a nuclear explosion of violence that is spiralling out of control and creating a nation without judges". Senator Leila De Lima, a former Justice secretary and Commission on Human Rights chief, is seeking a Senate inquiry into the number of drug-related extrajudicial killings, according to the Philippine Star.

Under Article 11 of the Revised Penal Code, police officers can legally kill a criminal or a suspect while in the line of duty as long as it is under justifiable circumstances.