Drug arrests, killings up

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Nearly half of the recorded deaths in police anti-drug operations between Jan. 1 and June 15 this year happened after the May 9 elections when a presidential candidate known for his uncompromising style of fighting drug pushers and syndicates was emerging as the clear winner in the polls.

Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman for the Philippine National Police (PNP), said that in their record of 68 individuals with suspected drug links killed by law enforcers during the period, 31 met their end after the election victory of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte – or an average of one a day.

The number of those killed has gone up to 70 as of yesterday.

More than 17,000 individuals have also been arrested during the period in an intensified PNP anti-illegal drugs campaign, Mayor said.

“The intensity of the operations against illegal drugs, which he (Duterte) is really, really against, has been pushed by the PNP. That’s why our police are focused on illegal drugs, which is priority No.1 of the incoming president,” Mayor added.

He clarified the slain suspected drug traders and pushers were killed in legitimate police operations.

“The reason why those suspects were killed is because there’s a shootout between the police and the suspects. They followed operational procedures. There was imminent danger on their part,” he added.

Of the 31 slain suspects, 12 were from Central Luzon, eight from Southern Tagalog and five from Central Visayas.

Just yesterday in Brgy. San Antonio, San Pedro City, Laguna, two suspected drug traffickers were killed in a shootout with policemen. The two were declared dead on arrival at the Amante District Hospital.

Mayor revealed Central Luzon (Police Regional Office 3) recorded the most number of suspects killed in encounters, at 25.

He said CALABARZON (Police Regional Office 4A) placed second with 14 drug suspects killed between Jan.1 and June 15.

“With the intensified anti-illegal drugs operations and ‘whole-of-government’ approach, the PNP has recorded a total of 17,680 neutralized persons from anti-illegal drugs operations nationwide,” Mayor added.

Of the 17,680 individuals arrested, Mayor said the largest number or 4,874 was reported in the CALABARZON.

“Next is NCRPO with 3,760 and followed by Central Luzon with 3,004 arrested individuals,” he added.

In line with the government policy of zero tolerance for drugs, Mayor said the PNP conducted random drug testing on its men from May 10 to June 8 at the national headquarters and at police regional offices.

Mayor said government employees face dismissal from government service if found to be users of illegal drugs.

Earlier, Chief Supt. and incoming PNP head Ronald dela Rosa said more funds would be given to the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) to help boost its operations against illegal drugs.

Aside from pushing for more funds for the AIDG, Dela Rosa also vowed to initiate a revamp in the leadership of regional, provincial and district anti-illegal drug units as some officers were allegedly in cahoots with drug syndicates.

“We need to replace some police personnel. I can’t remember all of them, I will just let their respective bosses handle them,” he pointed out.

Dela Rosa said governors or mayors arrested for illegal drugs would be treated as ordinary criminals and not be given special treatment.

Also in line with the incoming administration’s intensified anti-illegal drugs campaign, the Department of Health (DOH) announced it intends to put up one rehabilitation center in each of the 18 regions.

Incoming DOH secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said there are only 12 rehabilitation centers being run by the agency across the country.  Ten others similar facilities are being managed by local government units.

“We really have a big problem now on drugs so we want this addressed immediately.  We intend to put up more rehabilitation centers,” she told The STAR.

The DOH is also looking at “networking” with every province so there would be facilities at the provincial level.

Ubial said that in getting people off drug addiction, it is important to have a rehabilitation center near their places of residence to encourage them to undergo treatment procedures.

“We will be studying the financing of this, how it can be sustainable.  I cannot say for now if treatment will be for free because drug addiction is different from tuberculosis, for instance.  It is not the fault of TB patients if they got TB,” she noted.

Ubial added it is better for drug addicts and their families to have some form of “ownership” of their treatment.  

Not easy

Meanwhile, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr said the Duterte administration will not be able to re-impose the death penalty in three months as it has promised, despite mounting calls for its revival amid the rising drug menace among other heinous crimes.

“I doubt if they can do it within that short timeframe,” he told reporters, adding he believes the bill restoring the death penalty would face rough sailing both in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

He said many House members and senators are opposed to the measure, in addition to the Catholic Church and allied groups.

Baguilat noted even some Duterte allies are against the proposed return of capital punishment.

For one, he said the Makabayan bloc of militant party-list representatives would not support it.

Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, who belongs to Makabayan, said their group would oppose the re-imposition of the death penalty.

“I predict a showdown on this issue inside and outside Congress, what with the Catholic Church against the death penalty,” he said.

He said other party-list representatives, including Lito Atienza of Buhay, are also opposed to capital punishment.

According to representative-elect Danilo Suarez of Quezon, who met with Duterte and Alvarez last June 7, the re-imposition of the death penalty would be a priority legislative measure of the incoming president.

“He feels that if at least 50 drug lords and other convicts are hanged every month, their execution will deter crime,” he said.

He said Duterte intends to certify a capital punishment re-imposition bill as urgent.

Suarez recalled that in the course of the June 7 meeting, reelected Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. suggested that funds could be set aside for the rehabilitation of the death chamber at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa, where execution through lethal injection could be carried out.

“But the president-elect declared there was no need for it as he preferred hanging as mode of execution,” he said.

He said if Congress enacts a bill lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 15, youth convicted of heinous crimes such as drug trafficking would be covered by the planned re-imposition of the death penalty.

Suarez admitted that drugs lords would have to go through the legal process before being convicted and put to death through hanging.

However, he said if suspected drug lords choose to fight law enforcers, they would suffer death just the same.

“In our province, if there is a drug lord in a community and is arrested, he is freed and is back to his illegal activities in a few days because he has bribed the judge and the prosecutor. This does not happen in Davao City,” he said. Duterte was Davao City mayor for decades. – With Jess Diaz




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