CHR hopeful PDEA will follow rule of law in drug war

Jodesz Gavilan
CHR hopeful PDEA will follow rule of law in drug war
As the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency handles the war on drugs, the Commission on Human Rights also calls on the Philippine National Police to shift its focus to extrajudicial killings

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights is hopeful that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will follow the rule of law as it handles President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“We are hopeful that professionalism will govern PDEA in implementing the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and that the campaign against drugs will be carried out with strict adherence to the rule of law,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement on Monday, October 16.

Duterte, in a memorandum dated October 10, designated PDEA as the “sole agency” to conduct all campaigns and operations against illegal drugs.

The order means that the Philippine National Police (PNP), which has been at the forefront of the drug war, had to suspend its high-profile Oplan Double Barrel.

The country’s national human rights institution said it expects law enforcement agencies such as the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) “to recognize the lead role of and coordinate” with PDEA.

PNP to focus vs EJKs

The new development, according to the CHR, is an “indication that the administration is willing to listen to public clamor for the observance of due process in its campaign against illegal drugs.”

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted in September had showed that Duterte’s satisfaction and trust ratings declined – believed to be due to the rising number of killings in his violent war on drugs.

At least 3,850 people have been killed in police operations while at least 2,290 others have been killed mostly by vigilantes. (READ: CHR: Death toll in drug war higher than what gov’t suggests)

The CHR also said PDEA’s takeover as the sole agency in the drug war should pave the way for the PNP to focus on solving cases of extrajudicial killings.

“[The assignment of PDEA] will allow the PNP to devote more effort to solving and preventing ordinary crimes, including vigilante killings and possible EJKs resulting from police operations,” De Guia said.

The commission, however, reminded the government that the anti-drug campaign should be a “holistic strategy that is compliant with international human rights standards, and prioritizes health, including access to medicines, rehabilitation, and poverty alleviation issues.” (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Dr. Carl Hart on drug war and public health)

“We look forward to a more collaborative relationship with PDEA towards shaping a strategy that is more respectful of life and human dignity,” De Guia said. (READ: CHR in 2016: ‘We are not enemies of the fight against drugs’–

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.