Solon sees return of ‘reign of terror’ in antidrug war
Lawmakers are split over the imminent return of the Philippine National Police as the spearhead of President Duterte’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin on Friday said if the PNP reassumed its lead role in the war on drugs, the country could see a “reign of error and terror.”
The President on Wednesday said he transferred the sole authority of leading the antidrug campaign from the PNP to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in October in response to criticisms of his bloody war on drugs.
But he added: “Whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police.”
“Malacañang’s trigger-happy hands have become too itchy,” said Villarin, a member of the opposition bloc in the House of Representatives.
“The PNP’s return at the helm of the drug war would be a return to a reign of error and terror at Yuletide,” Villarin said.
‘Real danger’ to public
“Instead of a joyous Christmas, there will be mourning and wailing among the poor who are the targets of the drug war,” he said.
A fellow Akbayan member, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, said the return of the PNP in the war on drugs was a “real danger” to the public, warning of a “return to the horrors of extrajudicial killings.”
“I suspect that President Duterte does not want the PDEA’s alternative antidrug approach, which is less bloody and more observant of the rule of law and human rights, to succeed,” Hontiveros said.
Using its tiny force and small budget, the PDEA launched 1,341 operations nationwide from Oct. 10 to Nov. 10, arresting about 400 drug personalities. The PDEA also seized P53.83 million worth of narcotics, including 6.16 kilograms of “shabu” (crystal meth) and only one drug suspect was killed during that period.
In comparison, close to 4,000 mostly urban poor residents were killed in police antidrug operations. The police also arrested 117,000 suspected drug offenders.
Sen. Grace Poe said the PNP should just provide manpower to PDEA instead of taking the lead role.
“We must not forget that the PNP has been involved in too many controversial operations, thus casting doubt on the organization’s ability to uphold the rule of law and respect basic rights,” Poe said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Mr. Duterte’s chief ally in the Senate, on Friday said it was the President’s prerogative to restore the PNP’s lead role in the antidrug campaign, but he reminded authorities to conduct it “in accordance with law.”
“This is his administration and its declared priority is the all-out-war against drugs, among others,” Pimentel told reporters.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, also a supporter of Mr. Duterte, shared Pimentel’s sentiments, saying the President’s trust on the police did not absolve them of mistakes “that led to deaths of innocent civilians.”
The PNP would be more effective in the antidrug campaign if it were supervised by PDEA, according to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, a strong opponent of illegal drugs.
‘PNP officers more conscious’
Sotto said this would also be in line with the intentions of Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which created PDEA.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said senior PNP officers were more conscious and wary of the possible dire consequences of any abuses once the police reassumes its leadership role.
He said this was mainly due to the human rights violations by the police that were exposed in Senate investigations “that put them on the spot and under closer scrutiny by different human rights groups and advocates.”
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