PNP BACK ON WAR ON DRUGS
Promising it is going to be a “less bloody” war on drugs, ranking officers of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) welcomed Malacañang’s decision to put the police back into the anti-drug campaign.
“We very much welcome it, the pronouncement of the President. It is a welcome development (for PRO-7),” said Supt. Reyman Tolentin, PRO-7 public information officer.
Tolentin said PRO-7 could not promise that there would be no casualties once they are back in the anti-illegal drugs campaign as support to the lead implementor, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
However, Tolentin said that this time, learning from the lessons of the past, he believed that the anti-drugs war would no longer be as bloody as before.
“In my personal view, it would not be as bloody as before kay naa naman tay mga lessons nga na learned (since we already learned our lessons). And we do not want to promote the idea (that if it is handled by the) police bloody kaayo,” Tolentin said.
Tolentin said that they now planned to reactivate its Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU), that was disbanded after PDEA took sole control over the drug war.
This developed as Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, while expressing support to the government’s effort to curb illegal drugs, reminded law enforcement agencies to respect human life, and to carry out their tasks within the bounds of the law.
“Even before, we say we support the intention of (the Duterte administration), but we have questions with regard to the approaches and the manners of its implementation,” he told reporters shortly after he presided over the Mass and ordination of new deacons at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral on Wednesday.
In going after those involved in the illegal drugs trade, Palma said there are laws which must be followed.
“Law enforcement units do not have to put the law into their own hands. They must instead follow the process,” the 67-year-old prelate said.
Saying there was a “notable resurgence in illegal drugs,” President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered the Philippine National Police to actively support the PDEA in the war on drugs.
In a new briefing in Manila, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the recent order “supersedes the earlier memorandum that designated the PDEA as the sole agency that will deal with the entire illegal drug operations.”
This is the second time that President Duterte recalled his earlier orders and allowed the PNP to rejoin the war on drugs.
In January, he stopped all police units and stations in the country from conducting anti-illegal drug operations after narcotics officers were linked to the kidnapping and killing of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
With the PNP sidelined, the PDEA solely took into their hands the fight against drugs. But barely after a month, the President ordered the PNP to rejoin the campaign against illegal drugs because the drug menace reportedly became resurgent.
Last October 11, President Duterte again stripped the PNP of its role in the drug war following the August killing of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos by the police that sparked public outrage.
On Tuesday, the country’s top executive again called the police back to his war on drugs, saying there was a “notable resurgence in illegal drugs” when policemen took a step back in the campaign.
Roque, however, explained that if the PNP wanted to revive “Oplan Tokhang,” it should coordinate first with the PDEA.
Drug war deaths
Based on the records of the PNP, there were at least 6,225 drug-related deaths between July 2016 and September 2017 or before the organization was disallowed from conducting anti-drug operations.
Of the number of casualties, the police said 3,850 were killed after they reportedly engaged law enforcers in a shootout, while 2,290 persons were killed by still unidentified assailants.
The numbers presented by the PNP, however, were way lower than the figures gathered by human rights groups which estimated the death toll in the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign at 13,000.
The bloody war on drugs has been criticized by Catholic Church bishops, priests, and lay organizations as well as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The United States, European Union, United Nations and international groups also expressed concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines.
President Duterte badmouthed them all and accused them of meddling in the affairs of government.
While President Duterte has the prerogative to implement what he thinks is good for the country, Palma said there must be a thorough study and reflection on what is the best solution to the drug menace in the country.
“How I wish authorities will really determine which is the most effective and best approach in the war on drugs. This is a serious case to study,” he said.
On the part of the church, Palma said they will help the government by continuing its community and center-based drug rehabilitation programs in the archdiocese which now caters hundreds of drug dependents.
“Let us be serious in the war against drugs. The church is here to help surrenderers who wanted to change their lives,” he said.
In July last year, Palma led the inauguration of the Surrender to God (SuGod) center-based drug rehabilitation program in Liloan, and the Lahat Bangon community-based drug rehabilitation program introduced by the Dilaab Foundation Inc.
Human rights concerns
Arvin Odron, director of CHR-7, said he met with the chiefs of police in Cebu and their investigators to discuss about the need to adhere to human rights policies in going after drug suspects. The meeting was part of the National Human Rights Consciousness Week from December 4 to 10.
“We want to identify and address scorching human rights issues prevalent in the region. We discussed matters related to the respective mandates of CHR and the PNP in the promotion of human rights,” Odron said in a text message to Cebu Daily News.
He reminded law enforcers to obey the rules and to respect human rights.
“I want to emphasize that the police, and even the PDEA are called upon to enforce the law and protect human rights. They are supposed to be protectors of human rights,” Odron said.
Now that PNP is back on war on drugs, PRO-7 will conduct more operations especially since it is the order of PRO-7 director Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino to the police in the region to stay “busy catching criminals, drug users and pushers.”
Tolentin assured that as a deterrent to police abuses, PRO-7 has been serious in conducting internal cleansing and only policemen with clean records will be assigned in anti-drugs unit.
“So there will be police officers who are not authorized to join an operations especially those who did not undergo any anti-illegal drugs trainings and seminars,” Tolentin said.
Tolentin said that they are still waiting for the directives from Espino as to when to reactivate the DEU in every stations in Central Visayas.
Even during the time when they took their hands off the drug war, Tolentin said they continued to monitor movements of suspected drug dealers.
“We have not lowered our guards in terms of monitoring these illegal drugs personalities. And now (that) we are back, mapahingusgan pa namo og samot (we will strengthen our campaign) and improve (our) performance,” Tolentin said. With INQUIRER.NET