“For the longest time, we know by heart that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is a failure.“
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Families of the victims of the anti-illegal drug war welcomed the recent report of Vice President Leni Robredo that deemed Oplan Tokhang as a failure – ridding only the country of illegal drugs by one percent amid the widespread killings and abuses.
“For the longest time, we know by heart that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is a failure. Rather, this is a war against us, the poor. We thank Vice President Leni Robredo for her courageous report to the public,” said Emily Soriano, a mother of a youth victim of the drug war.
On Monday, Robredo presented to the media her 41-page report resulting from her 18-day stint as co-chairperson of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs. She assailed how President Duterte’s illegal drugs drive has been a “massive failure” as only one percent of the total illegal drugs in circulation has been seized.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, through its chief Aaron Aquino, dismissed Robredo’s report as a “mere political attack” against the president. Countering Robredo’s report, he claimed that 16,706 out of 33,881 barangays have been cleared of illegal drugs.
Aquino said that he had reported to Robredo during her 18-day stint as co-chair of the working committee that data gathering is “difficult” as “nobody will admit that he/she is a user or pusher,” much like in other countries.
Still, families of the victims of the government’s anti-illegal drug drive expressed hopes that President Duterte will be held accountable for the thousands of deaths – estimated to be more than 20,000 as of this writing.
“We fervently hope that President Duterte be held accountable for the many lives lost, while the PNP only recovered one percent of the illegal drugs,” The bloody debt of the government is too high, even if the PNP conservatively claims that more than 5,000 were murdered in the war on drugs,” said Soriano, who is part of Rise Up, a group of families of victims of illegal drug war.
Shift to ending supply
Robredo said that to make a substantial dent on illegal drugs in circulation the government should arrest high value targets and dismantle the network – both here and abroad.
She also said there is a need to enhance and carry out internal cleansing within the ranks of law enforcement agencies “to prevent the flow of drugs into country and its distribution, strengthened cooperation with foreign counterparts, and effective fund interdiction.”
Instead, the report further added that attention and resources were “disproportionately focused on street-level enforcement” while prevention, detention, prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration were left on its own.
Soriano said the vice president’s report revealed how “weak” the police is in carrying out its work.
“Is this what you call a success?” she added, “We want an explanation. Why did you sacrifice our children and our loved ones for this program that did not resolve the illegal drug problems in the Philippines?”
Meanwhile, Robredo also stressed that there is no common and reliable data on the number of illegal drug dependents in the country. As such, “there will be no benchmark for measuring the success of the programs.”
The report, too, said that there is no systematic tracking of happens after drug users surrender to authorities. The numbers of surrenderees, instead, is “proudly reported as a measure of success” even without talking about what happened to them after the surrender.
Source: Philippine National Police
(As cited in VP Leni Robredo’s Report)
“It is even more alarming that of the 1.5 million accounted for, the government is not able to distinguish the users from the pushers,” the report read.
Robredo recommended the establishment of an accurate and updated baseline data on the number of drug dependents and a system for tracking those who have surrendered.
Search for justice
Soriano said that the families who lost their children and loved ones to illegal drug war will not stop their search for justice until President Duterte has been held accountable.
As of this writing, the UN Human Rights Council has received the first wave of reports on human rights violations in the Philippines. This stemmed from the historic Iceland-led resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines, which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council. Human rights groups hailed it as a “significant step towards accountability.”
There is also a pending case before the International Criminal Court on the drug-related extrajudicial killings.