PAGEANT CANCELED. One of the photos from the Facebook album posted by the organizers of the Mr and Ms PUP Engineering pageant. Male candidate’s face has been blurred by Rappler.

MANILA, Philippines – The dean of the College of Engineering of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) announced on Thursday, February 16, that the controversial pageant being mounted by its students has been canceled.

The Mr and Ms PUP Engineering pageant had sparked outrage online after candidates posed for a photo shoot that had extrajudicial killings as the theme. The pictures were uploaded via Facebook album, and have since been deleted.

The organizers have said sorry to those who were offended, and explained that they only wanted to raise awareness of the spate of killings in the country.

In a statement sent to media on Thursday, PUP College of Engineering dean Guillermo Bernabe also apologized on behalf of the college.

"We offer our apologies to the families of the victims of extrajudicial killings. The Mr and Ms College Engineering pageant has been already canceled until further notice," Bernabe said.

He added that while the students "had the best intentions in their #EmbraceYourFlaws photo shoot," they were unable to deliver their message well.

The candidates who posed as victims of extrajudicial killings had cardboard signs next to them, showing their "flaws" or "insecurities." Real victims often have cardboard signs as well, claiming they are drug pushers or drug users.

"As a university that hones its students to be socially aware and critical, we believe that matters like extrajudicial killings shall not be downplayed to just a theme in a pageant’s shoot," Bernabe said.

"This experience has helped the College of Engineering be more responsible and keen-sighted on the topics that we will highlight in our future events."

Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs began on July 1, 2016, there have been 7,080 deaths recorded. Of this figure, 2,555 were killed in police operations, while the rest were victims of vigilante-style or unexplained killings.

The spate of killings in the country has been condemned both here and abroad, including by the United Nations, the European Parliament, the United States, and the International Commission of Jurists. (READ: Cops are paid to kill in PH war on drugs – Amnesty Int’l) – Rappler.com