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‘Narco politics deeply entrenched’

“(This) underscores how deeply entrenched narco-politics is in the country,” Abella stressed, pointing out that the raid on the mayor’s house validated Duterte’s claim that illegal drugs and corruption have captured local politics. PCOO/King Rodriguez, File

MANILA, Philippines — The surrender of Maasim town Mayor Aniceto Lopez Jr. proves that President Duterte is correct in saying drug syndicates have penetrated localities in the country, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday.

“(This) underscores how deeply entrenched narco-politics is in the country,” Abella stressed, pointing out that the raid on the mayor’s house validated Duterte’s claim that illegal drugs and corruption have captured local politics.

Raiding Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) operatives seized about P5 million worth of suspected shabu, along with several firearms and shabu lab equipment.

Lopez, 55, earlier said the equipment was used by his children to cook food. Although not found in Duterte’s narco-list, he is on the PDEA watch list.

Charges for illegal possession of firearms and violation of Sections 10, 11 and 12 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 are being prepared against him.

Abella called on the public to continue supporting the government’s campaign to eliminate the illicit trade, saying any “progress against illegal drugs largely depends on the full support and cooperation of everyone, from the citizens to the church and communities.”

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Malacañang also supported the claims of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that there is no extrajudicial killing (EJK) under the Duterte administration when viewed under the Administrative Order 35 issued on April 18, 2013.

Under the order, EJK is referred to as killings where “the victim was a member of, or affiliated with, an organization, to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor or similar causes; or an advocate of above-named causes; or a media practitioner or person(s) apparently mistaken or identified to be so.” 

It also described as EJK when “the victim was targeted and killed because of the actual or perceived membership, advocacy or profession; or the person/s responsible for the killing is a state agent or non-state agent; and the method and circumstances of attack reveal a deliberate intent to kill.”

“AO 35 has not been repealed or revoked. Thus, the definition of EJK remains the same. Having said that, we wish to emphasize that one death is one too many,” Abella said.

Abella stressed though that regardless of the definition, “these deaths are being addressed to ensure the accountability of perpetrators.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also defended the Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign, saying most of the casualties are “drug dealers.”

In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan, he admitted that about 3,800 people have been killed since Duterte launched the “war on drugs” in July last year but disagreed on the point that the police have admitted that many of these were “false killings.”

“That’s absolutely not true,” Cayetano said.

When Hasan asked why the victims were killed instead of sued, Cayetano rebutted the journalist for making statements as if he is a witness to the killings.

Data from the Philippine National Police showed at least 3,850 drug suspects – including the 2,290 that died at the hands of unidentified assailants – were killed in the government’s anti-illegal drug operations.

In Geneva, the Philippines also joined other countries in calling for a “professional” and “impartial” investigation by the Human Rights Council (HRC) special rapporteurs and experts.

Evan Garcia, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organizations, said the country, as an HRC member, attaches high significance to the work of the special rapporteurs and independent experts.

He added that the Philippines believes that special rapporteurs and independent experts must carry out their duties professionally, in good faith and impartially when doing their work of promoting human rights worldwide.

Nearly 80 independent human rights experts under the HRC special procedures mechanism assist the council in monitoring human rights situations in different parts of the world.

However, Evan said member-states have increasingly raised concerns that a number of special rapporteurs and independent experts acted in violation of the spirit and letter of the Code of Conduct and Manual, which guides them in the conduct of their work.

The violations, he added, have undermined the credibility of the entire Special Procedures mechanism.

During the 36th session of the HRC which concluded last Sept. 29 in Geneva, member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 18 other states issued two separate joint statements calling for the council to safeguard the credibility of the special procedures mechanisms by ensuring adherence by the special rapporteurs and independent experts to the principles and standards prescribed in the Code of Conduct and Manual and by developing mechanisms of accountability.

The ASEAN statement delivered by Indonesia last Sept. 12 emphasized that consent of member-states, consultations, transparency and sincere dialogue in good faith are essential for special rapporteurs and independent experts in carrying out their mandates, and that reports should be balanced, taking into account not only perspectives of non-government organizations but government perspectives and the unique contexts and challenges of member-states.

Garcia said that “by joining the almost 30 countries in these joint statements, the Philippines affirmed its commitment in strengthening the council as a platform for constructive dialogue and cooperation to pursue the common goal of promoting and protecting the human rights of all peoples.”

These actions include special rapporteurs and independent experts going beyond their mandates, delivering politically biased and unsubstantiated public statements and using uncorroborated and sometimes false information.

In October last year, the Duterte administration invited UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard to conduct an investigation on the alleged human rights violations committed in connection with the drug war. 

The investigation, however, has yet to push through after the Philippine government set conditions for her visit, including being questioned under oath by Duterte.

Callamard arrived in Manila last May to speak at a two-day policy forum on the illegal drug problem organized by the Free Legal Assistance Group’s Anti-Death Penalty Task Force.

Meanwhile, police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said there are no more shabu laboratories in the country after the Philippine National Police, which he heads, strengthened its campaign against illegal drugs.

“We already dismantled all the shabu labs but we have to be very vigilant because illegal drug traffickers will make other means to continue their illegal activities,” dela Rosa said during the 116th Police Service Anniversary at Camp Florendo in La Union.

He added that after the drug route through the Bureau of Customs was exposed, traffickers are now looking for ways to continue with their trade.

“They will go back to their old system of dropping their products at sea. They will install GPS and then it will be collected by their contacts along the shorelines,” the police chief said.

Dela Rosa reminded policemen in Regions 1and 2 to strengthen the coastal regional border control points as these areas border countries with known presence of drug syndicates. – With Helen Flores, Jun Elias



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