“There had to be a scandal about the killing of a Korean to show that there is something wrong with Oplan Tokhang…If this had not happened, the PNP will carry on killing poor Filipinos already hard put in finding justice.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – What about the thousands of Filipinos who died in the war on drugs?
This is now the question of urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) after Philippine National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa suspended the government’s war on drugs on Monday, Jan. 30.
Dela Rosa also disbanded the Anti-Illegal Drugs Groups (AIDG) after a Department of Justice resolution said that its rogue members killed Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo inside Camp Crame, the PNP national headquarters. Policemen involved in Joo’s murder claimed that it was a legal operation under the government’s war on drugs.
But Kadamay and various other groups said the PNP not only needs to hold its ranks accountable for the scores of deaths linked to the war on drugs, it must also address the deep-seated culture of corruption and impunity in the police and other state security forces.
“There had to be a scandal about the killing of a Korean to show that there is something wrong with Oplan Tokhang. What about the thousands of Filipinos killed? If this had not happened, the PNP will carry on killing poor Filipinos already hard put in finding justice,” said Kadamay chairman Gloria Arellano in a statement.
Arellano called President Duterte’s war on drugs “a corrupt and flawed program” which had taken its toll mostly on poor communities.
“It has curtailed the basic rights of Filipinos. In short, it has done a huge disservice to Filipinos while illegal drugs remain rampant. This has to spur a fundamental change in the policy direction of the President, one which he must prove to the people,” Arellano said.
Deep-seated Culture of impunity among state forces
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said that if President Duterte is serious about reforms in the PNP, he must end the reign of impunity and corruption and hold top officials accountable.
“This is the same mentality that gives rise to the killing of suspects while in detention, the torture of detainees, police violence against peaceful protesters,” said the group in a statement.
The group noted that state security forces are yet to be punished even in the most notorious cases of human rights violations, such as those during martial law, the Mendiola Massacre, Hacienda Luisita massacre, the Kuratong Baleleng massacre of suspected criminal syndicate members and in the Mamasapano blundered operations.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said the PNP must be accountable for those killed in the war on drugs, otherwise, the police chief’s announcement is “an empty public relations gesture.”
Dela Rosa has declared a shift in the PNP’s priority to a “war on scalawags,” or the internal cleansing of rogue cops.
“Dela Rosa’s announcement is a cynical triumph of form over substance because it reaffirms that he has no interest in a meaningful probe into the circumstances of the police killings of 2,546 suspected users and drug dealers since July 1,” Kine said.
More than 7,000 people have been killed in the government’s war against drugs: the PNP accounts for 2,250 killed during police operations, while the rest are “deaths under investigation,” with victims killed by suspected death squads and vigilantes.
Arellano lamented that the immediate arrest of Superintendent Rafael Dumlao, the alleged mastermind of Joo’s murder, shows a “double standard,” as the deaths of the more than 7,000 people “have been somewhat brushed off by the administration.”
Arellano said “pro-people measures” are what is needed to solve the proliferation of narcotics, otherwise, the transfer of the anti-drug campaign to another police agency will only bear the same results. The urban poor leader said the yet-to-be-formed Narco Police Command should target big drug lords and syndicates instead of communities that have been victimized by both criminals and corrupt law enforcement.
Kadamay also called on the PNP to stop hunting down activists and members of the progressive groups in the guise of anti-drug operations.