Human rights 'never got in the way' of war on drugs â PNP chief
Undated file photo shows Police Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan.
The STAR, file

Human rights 'never got in the way' of war on drugs — PNP chief

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - September 21, 2020 - 11:24am

MANILA, Philippines — Human rights have never "gotten in the way" of the so-called war on drugs—during which official police data has recorded over 5,800 deaths—because, the national police chief claims, the agency respects and upholds human rights. 

This comes after Police Gen. Camilo Cascolan, the chief of the Philippine National Police, first denied at an earlier press briefing on September 7 that the extra-judicial killings linked to the administration campaign against illegal narcotics even existed. 

Speaking before reporters at his weekly press briefing Monday, Cascolan said: "Let me state for the record that Human Rights has never gotten in the way of the PNP campaign against illegal drugs and vice-versa, precisely because police anti-illegal drugs operations are consistent with Police Operational Procedures or rules of engagement that are founded on the fundamental principle to respect, protect and fulfill human rights; and to uphold the rule of law."

RELATED: Majority of Filipinos see human rights violations in 'failing' drug war — SWS

"Despite calls by the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to turn our back from the anti-drug campaign, we will never lower our guard against a crime that destroys families and the moral fiber of society, and certainly not while we are winning the war," he also said. 

Cascolan was referring to a report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which condemned the Philippine government for what it said was widespread human rights violations in the name of national security and the fight against drug trafficking.

The Palace has since rejected the conclusions reached in the report and continues to erroneously claim that the Duterte administration respects human rights.

According to local and international rights monitors, over 30,000 Filipinos have been casualties of the summary vigilante-style executions linked to the so-called "war on drugs," with police forces routinely claiming that only drug suspects who fought back were killed.

'Great strides against drug supply'

Taking the lead of other public officials, Cascolan pointed to the alleged successes of the drug war instead in responding to allegations of human rights abuses.

"I would like to point out that over a 17-day period from September 2 to September 19, the PNP has conducted 2,570 separate anti-illegal drugs operations that resulted to the arrest of 3,615 drug offenders and the confiscation of 16.7 kilograms of Shabu estimated to be worth P114-million in the street market," Cascolan said at his press briefing. 

READ: 'Grave violations': Bachelet presents report on Philippines to UN rights council

"In fact, we have made great strides in the supply reduction strategy against illegal drugs such that, of late, there is no reported local production of Shabu in the country and that drug trafficking activities have been significantly checked due to pressure from police operations," he added. 

At the start of the year, Vice President Leni Robredo pointed out that the government had little to no data on illegal drug users in the country and thus could not measure the successes of its campaign. This came after her 18-day stint as the government's anti-drug czar.

In earlier statements, Cascolan acknowledged the need to retool the current strategy of the anti-drug campaign, which he said has grown outdated over the years since its crafting in 2016. 

However, he has also rejected the estimate from rights groups that at least 27,000 have been shot and killed in the controversial drug war, pointing instead to the police officers who also died in drug-related standoffs. 

International rights monitor Human Rights Watch reported in May that despite the police claim that Oplan Tokhang would be suspended to give way to the administration's pandemic response, the vigilante-style summary executions linked to the government's anti-narcotics campaign went on undisturbed by the coronavirus-induced quarantines. 

"The challenge remains in the demand reduction strategy that takes more than law enforcement action, but a holistic approach by the stakeholders from the family, community, church, school, local government and the larger society," he said. 

READ: Despite police claims, drug war killings continue amid COVID-19 lockdown — int'l rights monitor

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