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âNo evidence to link Human Rights groups to drug syndicatesâ

Brad Adams

‘No evidence to link Human Rights groups to drug syndicates’

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - March 28, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Law enforcement agencies admitted yesterday that there is no evidence to back the claims of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. that some human rights groups have become unwitting tools of drug syndicates to discredit the administration’s war on drugs.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) spokesman Derrick Arnold Carreon and Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman John Bulalacao said yesterday that they are still validating the reports.

“We have none right now. But as what has been mentioned by PDEA, we continue to verify these reports,” Bulalacao said.

Human rights groups have accused the Duterte administration of committing human rights violations in the conduct of the anti-drug campaign where thousands of addicts and drug pushers have been killed.

Bulalacao and Carreon were summoned to attend a press briefing in Malacañang yesterday to update the public on developments in the anti-drug campaign of the administration.

“But seeing the trend of how they attack the anti-drug campaign, I guess we can only surmise that it might be unwitting to the human rights groups that they are being capitalized or maybe just leveraged by the groups,” Carreon said.

The PDEA is coordinating closely with the PNP, National Bureau of Investigation and the other intelligence agencies to check on the reports.

Carreon revealed that the government is now facing many obstacles in the drug campaign and that the campaign itself is being attacked, not the deaths arising from such operations.

He cited the possibility that some drug lords are riding on the criticisms hurled by the human rights groups to ruin the President’s drug war.

In response to the human rights groups, Roque is unfazed by criticisms over his claim that the groups have become unwitting tools of drug syndicates.

“We stand by the statement we made on the possibility that some non-governmental organizations, instead of assisting the government fulfill its human rights obligations, have become unwitting tools of drug lords,” Roque said.

Local and international rights groups had denounced the recent pronouncements of Roque and Cayetano, who accused them of being in cahoots with drug lords.

Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia Division, called the allegations as the “latest salvo” of the government to dodge international outrage against the brutal war on drugs. 

Kine said such claims are just harassment to discredit the already beleaguered Philippine human-rights activists.

Human Rights groups hit Duterte

Human rights groups have denounced President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs in which thousands of people have been killed, either by police or by shadowy, unidentified gunmen.

Duterte, who says he must be tough to protect the people from the scourge of drugs, has criticized rights groups, saying they were “trivializing” his campaign and unjustly blaming the authorities for the bloodshed.

Police say they have killed more than 4,200 drug suspects who were violently resisting arrest since the launch of the crackdown, which Duterte has vowed to pursue until he steps down in June 2022.

Several thousand more people have been killed by unidentified gunmen.

Police suspect many were victims of gang wars, though activists believe vigilantes supporting the government campaign were responsible for many of the killings.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), criticized Roque’s statement and the earlier comment from Cayetano, as “shockingly dangerous and shameful.”

“Are they trying to have death squads target human rights activists?” Adams asked in a statement.

Duterte said on March 14 the Philippines would pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) more than a month after court prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into his drug war.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) denounced the government’s attacks on independent institutions and individuals that defend human rights. 

AI-Philippines vice chairman Romeo Cabarde Jr. said the attacks on democratic institutions undermine democracy. 

AI called on the government to stop the wave of dangerous attacks on human rights defenders and international institutions, reminding it to protect human rights defenders and guarantee that they may carry out their work freely without any imminent danger from reprisals.   

AI’s global human rights report, launched this week in Baguio City, covering 159 countries and territories, highlighted extrajudicial executions, freedom of expression, human rights defenders and internal armed conflict as pressing human rights issues in the Philippines.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay yesterday corrected President Duterte on the latter’s claim that the Rome Statute creating the ICC needed to be published in the Official Gazette for it to be effective in the country.

He said the requirement of publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation applies to laws passed by Congress and signed by the President, and not to international treaties or covenants.

He said international instruments have their own provisions on when they would come into effect, and ratifying countries have prior knowledge of such provisions. – Emmanuel Tupas, Jess Diaz, Rhodina Villanueva, Reuters

HUMAN RIGHTS PHILIPPINE DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE
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