Amnesty PH slams PDEA for seeking info on 'drug suspects' via Facebook

Amnesty International (AI) Philippines on Monday, June 22, slammed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for using a dedicated Facebook page to gather tips on suspected drug personalities.

Butch Olano, AI Philippines' section director, said PDEA's "Isumbong mo kay Wilkins" (Report it to Wilkins) Facebook page "poses a dangerous call," especially as the drug lists used by police lead to deadly operations.

"They are highly unreliable, and only creates a system whereby individuals are placed under perpetual surveillance," Olano said.

"Names could be added arbitrarily, for example, because of personal vendetta or because the police receive incentives for killing more individuals on the lists."

The Facebook page started as early as June 11 and is a play on the name of PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva and the popular public service program Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo. It has at least 3,200 likes as of June 22.

Aside from calling hotlines, PDEA encourages people to send private messages containing information to the page.  

But Olano said the use of the page promotes "lazy and unacceptable" work. He added that compiling drug watch lists without any legal basis is "unjustifiable, irresponsible, and illegal."

President Rodrigo Duterte has been condemned for his deadly anti-drug campaign, which has claimed the lives of over 6,000 people in police operations. Human rights groups peg the toll at more than 27,000 to include those killed vigilante-style. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Drug lists are a crucial fixture in Duterte's campaign. During the first few years, authorities use lists to gather names of suspected drug personalities. In some cases, those included in the lists ended up dead. (READ: Big funds, little transparency: How Duterte's drug list works)

AI Philippines urged Villanueva to focus on ensuring operations are subjected to independent oversight to uphold police accountability.

"His anti-drug campaign must not fuel the culture of impunity, and prove that under his watch, Duterte's ‘war on drugs’ will not be 'a war against the poor,'" Olano said. – Rappler.com

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.

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