MANILA, Philippines – The temporary halt of anti-illegal drugs operations by the Philippine National Police is an acknowledgment of the campaign’s flaws and susceptibility to abuse, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said on Tuesday, January 31.
In a statement, the Commission said it welcomes national police Chief Ronald dela Rosa’s order to focus on internal cleansing as it underscores the importance of a competent police force that carries out the campaign.
“[The halt of operations] is an acknowledgment that there are gaps in the system and there may always be those who shall advance their own selfish interests,” CHR said. “It underscores the need to ensure a highly professionalized and competent police force that will be cognizant of the rights of the citizenry it seeks to protect.”
Dela Rosa’s announcement on Monday, January 30, came hours after President Rodrigo Duterte called for the dismantling of all anti-illegal drugs as a scandal hounds the PNP involving the kidnap-slay of South Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo. (READ: Jee Ick Joo case: Tangled webs, inconsistent stories)
Jee was abducted from his Angeles City home in October 2016 and was brought to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame. He was then strangled to death allegedly by police from the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG).
The murder of Jee – together with 2,551 individuals killed during police operations as of January 30 – “wantonly disregards adherence to the rule of law and lack of respect for human rights.”
“The PNP must rise to the challenge to remain faithful to their sworn duty to serve the people and protect their rights,” CHR emphasized. “It cannot and should not be an instrument of abuse lest it be the oppressor instead of the protector of the people.”
PNP, in its intense war against drugs, “must gain the trust rather than instill fear” among Filipinos. But the police force should still ensure accountability and be held responsible for all deaths perpetrated.
As of January 30, a total of 7,076 people have been killed in the war on drugs. Out of this number, 2,551 were suspected drug personalities killed in police operations while 4,525 were victims of extrajudicial, vigilante-style, or unexplained killings. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines’ ‘war on drugs’)
“The campaign may be successfully carried out without the need to resort to extra-judicial killings and must be carried out without allegations of corruption and abuse of power by law enforcement,” the Commission said. – Rappler.com
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.