Hontiveros threatens to dissolve DILG's Masa Masid budget over drug drop boxes

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros slammed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday, October 3, for institutionalizing drop boxes as a crime reporting system in all barangays nationwide.

Dubbing the DILG initiative "drug box tokhang," Hontiveros said the move is prone to malice and abuse, making it "foolish and dangerous."

She fears the drop boxes may lead to extrajudicial killings, which have been linked to the administration's war on drugs. (READ: In the PH drug war, it's likely EJK when...)

"The individuals whose names are written on pieces of paper could also become vulnerable to threats from vigilante groups. What would stop extrajudicial killers and vigilante groups from breaking the drop boxes and getting the submitted names?" Hontiveros said in a statement.

A member of the Senate finance committee, Hontiveros threatened to dissolve the P500-million budget requested by the DILG for Masa Masid, the community-based program under which local government units are being required to put up the drop boxes.

She said she plans to rally the project's budget to local governments' public health programs instead. (READ: Hontiveros wants P900-million PNP drug war budget dissolved for other projects)

"What we expect from the government is modern, rules-based, and human rights-centric drug law enforcement – not witch-hunting," Hontiveros said.

There have been a number of killings where victims were killed by police or vigilantes just because of neighborhood hearsay. In the operation involving teenager Kian delos Santos, for example, the Caloocan police admitted that they confirmed his supposed drug links through social media chatter – after they had killed the boy. In Pasay City, an innocent 12th-grader was shot dead after the gunman mistook him for the neighborhood druggie.

Backing Hontiveros is her successor in the House as Akbayan representative, Tom Villarin.

Villarin, a former DILG undersecretary, called the drop boxes "amateurish and highly irresponsible," casting doubt on the "competence" of the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

"If [the] government really wants crimes solved and for it to address the so-called drug menace properly, there is no substitute for objective, science-based, consistent law enforcement and no-nonsense investigation work," Villarin said in a statement.

"Such [a] move is highly questionable and opens up potential human rights violations," he added. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.