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Palace: Probe of killings welcome

/ 05:12 AM July 10, 2016

Malacañang welcomes an investigation of the administration’s ongoing drive against the illegal drug trade, but any criticism of the government’s campaign should be based on substantial evidence, according to the President’s spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

As human rights advocates sound the alarm on the rising body count in the Duterte administration’s war against drugs, Abella said complaints against it should not just be based on “speculation” or “reportage.”

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“If there is proof, if there’s substantive evidence and it’s proven, the Palace, the government, is also of course open to any investigation,” Abella said in an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

“However, it cannot just be based on speculation, based on opinion. It has to be evidenced-based also, that there were really violations,” he added.

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Lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group earlier said the President’s war on crime had “spawned a nuclear explosion of violence that is spiraling out of control and creating a nation without judges, without law and without reason.”

Lawmakers also urged a congressional inquiry into the killings of drug suspects, whom police said were slain in legitimate encounters with law enforcers. Several of the suspects were shot dead while supposedly trying to grab the police officers’ guns while in custody.

President Duterte has promised to wage a tough campaign against crime, especially the illegal drug trade that he said was destroying the country and the lives of its citizens.

He had told the police that they should not hesitate to shoot suspects when their own lives were at risk as the suspects resisted arrest. He would stake his own life and his position for the law enforcers doing their duty, he had said.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, during a visit to the Inquirer offices on Thursday, said it was a policeman’s job to shoot suspects if the latter fought back, as it was a choice between their lives or those of the suspects.

Those who have an issue with the operation could file a complaint, Andanar said.

“Anybody can complain. [But] as long as it’s a legitimate drug operation, and the person fought back, what can you do?” he said.

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Malacañang is also open to the idea of implementing mandatory drug tests for all government employees to restore the people’s trust in the government, Abella said.

He said the mandatory drug testing would be a welcome development and a “powerful symbolic act.”

It would prove to the public that the state’s employees are decent people, Abella said in the same interview.

“It’s not a question of exposing but it’s a question of expressing. It’s a symbolic act. It’s a very powerful symbolic act, that we are showing that the people serving in government are decent and they are people worthy of our trust,” he said.

Several government agencies have already conducted surprise drug tests on their officials, including the Philippine National Police (PNP), the military  and the Bureau of Immigration.

Meanwhile, Abella also revealed that drug money could have come into play during the recent elections by funding politicians’ campaigns.

Asked over dzRB radio if the President had any information about drug money being used in the elections, Abella said that was part of the implications of Mr. Duterte’s message that he doesn’t want the country to fall to narcopolitics.

“Apparently, there are mayors who have already acted independently of their parties, that they did not ask [for money] from them because, apparently, they had their own sources of funds and most probably it was be coming from that,” he said.

As this developed, the new chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ordered a lifestyle check on the entire police force—starting with the five active and retired generals recently named by President Duterte as coddlers of drug lords.

In a statement, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said he has instructed PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa to proceed with the lifestyle check. With a report by Jaymee T. Gamil

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TAGS: Duterte Administration, Ernesto Abella, human rights advocates, illegal drug trade, war against drugs
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