“We, the poor are the first ones to get killed… When we get caught for the slightest offense, we get killed right away.”
By IAN IRVING BAZARTE
MANILA – Four days before President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA), various human rights groups flocked to the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters at Camp Crame, Quezon City to urge the police to stop its deadly war on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives so far.
Duterte’s anti-drug operations is coined Oplan Tokhang – short for “toktok” and “hangyo,” the Cebuano words for “knock” and “plead.”
Hustisya Chairperson Evangeline Hernandez said some members of the police, instead of being the highest paragons of justice and upholding their pledge to “protect and serve” the people, are themselves involved in a variety of criminal activities such as extortion, drug-selling, kidnapping and murder.
She noted that Korean national Jee Ick Joo was illegally arrested and killed by members of the police within the walls of Camp Crame itself in late January this year, on the pretext that he was involved in the drug trade.
“Mga kapulisan, ‘wag na tayong mag-maang-maangan, ‘wag tayong mag-bingi-bingihan… Hindi ito ang tamang paraan para sugpuin ang kalakalan ng droga sa ating bansa. (To the police, let us not pretend that we do not know, let’s not pretend to be deaf…this is not the right way to stop the illegal drug trade in the country),” she said.
“Tandaan niyo, sisingilin rin kayo ng mga mamamayan. (Remember, you will be held accountable by the people.)” she added.
Norma Dollaga of Promotion for Church People’s Response noted the government’s inconsistent data about their drug operations.
Latest data given by the PNP, along with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), as well as other bureaus directly involved in the so-called “war on drugs” shows that 63,926 anti-drug operations have been conducted as of June 20 of this year, with 3,200 drug personalities killed in these operations. Another 2,098 people have been killed under what the PNP classifies as drug-related homicide cases, with 8,200 more homicide cases still under investigation.
Opponents of the administration, however, have cited much higher figures of drug-related killings in the country, with some saying there have been around 7,000 confirmed deaths due to police operations since the PNP started Campaign Plan: Double Barrel in July of last year.
Dollaga also called on members of the police to examine their conscience and not blindly follow orders from their superiors.
“Isipin ninyo ang mga tatay, ang mga nanay, ang mga bawat kapatid natin na nagluluksa dahil ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay ay pinaslang (Think of the fathers, of the mothers, of our brothers who mourn because their loved ones were slain),” she said.
Inday Bagasbas of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said the PNP is extremely selective in its implementation of Oplan Tokhang, mostly targeting poor communities, and implementing harsher – and often fatal – punishment for poor Filipinos.
“We, the poor are the first ones to get killed… When we get caught for the slightest offense, we get killed right away,” she said.