“We must address the roots of what makes for the proliferation of the illegal drug trade and not just give the police a license to kill.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Different groups expressed outrage over the surge of suspected extrajudicial killings in police anti-drug operations this week, highlighted by the death of 17-year-old senior high school student Kian Loyd Delos Santos in Caloocan City on Aug 16, Wednesday.
Police shot dead Delos Santos, claiming he pulled out a gun and fired at them as he resisted Oplan Galugad, the search operations for drug suspects. But witnesses said they saw the police men interrogating Delos Santos about drug suppliers and users. A closed-circuit TV recording in the village also showed police men holding Delos Santos by the cuff and taking him away, moments before he was found dead.
Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) led the protest at the Scout Rotunda, Tomas Morato in Quezon City on Friday, Aug. 18, as they condemned the killings in the intensifying war on drugs under President Duterte. This week, police reports said buy-bust and other anti-drug operations killed 32 drug suspects in Bulacan, 26 in Manila and seven in Cavite.
In a statement, Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano condemned government’s Oplan Tokhang, as this only focuses on how many people are killed but does not address the roots of the nation’s drug problem.
“The cruelty of this operation has long been exposed. We should not wait until the next victims would be our children and loved ones. The poor have been living in fear, it is only right to resist,” said Arellano.
With the war on drugs, rights groups Hustisya said the Philippines would be “a nation of orphans and grieving parents.”
“President Duterte’s drug war is a failure. Worse, it has wrought more fear and havoc among the poor, without real and long-term solutions to the drug problem in the country,” said Hustisya chairperson, Evangeline Hernandez.
National Youth Commission chairperson Aiza Seguerra meanwhile calls for the formation of an independent body to investigate the killing of Delos Santos. He said the creation of such team composed of the Department of Justice and the Social Welfare and Development to investigate the deaths of those 18 years old and below under Oplan Tokhang would lead to peace of mind for the affected families and the public.
“We want to curb the drug menace; however, we are alarmed by the deaths and injury of minors in the process,” Seguerra said in a statement. He said the NYC believes that children’s rights should be protected.
Citing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which the Philippines ratified, Seguerra said “any child (defined as those below 18 years of age) alleged or accused of having infringed the penal law has the right to be presumed innocent until guilty according to law.”
“In the same charter, no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The same provision reiterates the child’s sense of dignity and worth,” he added.
He also cited Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act “that protects the interest of children in conflict with the law, demands that the child be treated with humanity and respect and not to be subjected to torture or cruel or degrading treatment or punishment.”
‘Duterte; waging war against his people’
The Rise Up for Life and for Rights, a group of relatives of those who were killed under Oplan Tokhang said Duterte’s war on drugs is against the people. They deplore the killing of Delos Santos and the surge of killings this week.
Fr. Gilbert Billena, O.Carm, spokesperson of Rise Up said more and more families of those who lost their loved ones in the government’s war on drugs have become an advocate and add their voice to stop the killing.
“We do not believe any supposed evidence by police—their pattern is already well established. They have no conscience and will plant evidence on anyone. This situation is flatly barbaric,” said Billena in a statement.
Billena said Duterte’s martial law is not only in Mindanao, but also in the poor communities where mere drug suspects and small drug users, pushers, carriers are killed without trial.
Billenna said they too wanted an end to the proliferation of illegal drugs. However, eliminating small time users and pushers won’t end it. He said it is the supply of drugs through druglords, suppliers, producers and narco-politicians that should be dismantled.
“The poor need and deserve livelihood programs and social services, including rehabilitation for those dependent on drug-use. We must address the roots of what makes for the proliferation of the illegal drug trade and not just give the police a license to kill,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns secretary general said the killing of Delos Santos should fuel the people’s courage to speak up against the “monstrous kill policy” of Duterte administration.
He slammed the praises of Duterte to the killing of 32 suspected drug pushers in Bulacan while his own son, Paolo Duterte was alleged of protecting drug traffickers in the Bureau of Customs.
“May we remind the President that due process is not just for the presidential family, and that he must at all times uphold the law and protect the lives of innocent civilians” Bonganay said.
Bonganay said “reign of terror” intensifies under Duterte administration as children have also become targets of war on drugs. Just last year, Bonganay said a five-year-old girl was killed in Oplan Tokhang. He said the poor and their children are the most vulnerable in this reign of state terror.
They also express concern on the implementation of random drug testing among high school students after Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones signed Memorandum Order 40. “High schools students are now open targets for police brutality and vigilante killings. Duterte’s war on drugs has now become every parent’s worst nightmare,” Bonganay said.
“We urge the Filipino people to unite and join the broadening opposition against the reign of state terror in our country. More important is for those who are responsible for rights violations, including Duterte himself, be held accountable,” Bonganay added.