After Duterte's UN tirade, PNP chief boasts 'active role' in drug war review

After Duterte's UN tirade, PNP chief boasts 'active role' in drug war review
President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on May 13, 2021.
Presidential Photo / Robinson Niñal Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — The chief of the Philippine National Police claimed that the organization is taking an "active role" in the review of the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, even as the PNP submits just 52 reports out of over 6,000 instances of deaths in official anti-drug operations. 

This came after President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the United Nations at the UN General Assembly earlier this week as "the product of an era long past," in the face of international probes on his flagship drug war.  

Duterte at the UNGA hit the international body's "interference" in his administration's so-called war on drugs as he claimed that he had already instructed the PNP as well as the Department of Justice to review the conduct of the campaign against narcotics. 

“I have instructed the Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police to review the conduct of our campaign against illegal drugs," Duterte said as he claimed that those found to have acted beyond bounds will be "made accountable before the country's laws."

In a statement sent to reporters, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, again took the opportunity to prop up the police organization's so-called gains against corrupt cops. 

“We have done a lot in terms of strengthening transparency and accountability in the PNP,” said Eleazar. 

"From the immediate actions on our erring personnel, the distribution of body-worn cameras, and the strong coordination with the Department of Justice for the review of cases relating to the campaign against illegal drugs, these all prove that we are not hiding anything and that there is no reason for us to do so."

Eleazar claimed said that this was "actually consistent with the marching order given by President Duterte when he was appointed as the Chief PNP, which is to do what is legal and what is right."

"We can see from what our President said that he will not tolerate any official who abuses power whenever there are operations against illegal drugs. This is also our rule in the PNP," he pontificated. 

Usual narratives 

The PNP leaned on its usual answers to criticisms on the conduct of its drug war, which rights groups say has led to 30,000 deaths, contrary to the government's count of 6,100. 

New mechanisms: Eleazar often points to the new mechanisms in the PNP, including the online E-Sumbong system and the newly acquired body cameras as new innovations to address abusive cops.

He says these new structures are proof that abuse is promptly addressed and that the PNP's mechanisms are working.

READ: PNP says 2018 conviction of Kian's murderers proof that 'domestic remedies work'

Whataboutism: Eleazar also brings up the singular conviction of Kian Delos Santos' killers as proof that the justice system is working for the families of victims searching for justice. 

He often employs the same narrative when other supposed accomplishments in the arena of justice are reported as he takes the opportunity to point out that the PNP is actively weeding out dirty cops one by one. 

What does he leave out?: Public access to the documents is still unsure as bodies like the Commission on Human Rights are blocked by red tape. 

As the PNP flaunts its new mechanisms to curb future cases of abuse, families of victims killed in past ones continue to report intimidation and coercion by local police urging them not to file formal complaints, according to a global investigative panel. 

Progress in other cases has meanwhile been slow to nonexistent. The CHR has said that investigations into thousands of other "drug war" cases are still pending, with only a handful of cases actually reaching the courts.

All the while, illegal drugs in the Philippines are cheaper than ever. In 2020, crystal methamphetamines or shabu was found to still be behind the most arrest and treatment admissions in the Philippines, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported. 

Whatever Duterte says

But at the end of the day, Eleazar himself concedes that everything depends on Duterte's final word. 

The PNP chief on Thursday claimed that operations that led to deaths or injuries of targets or police personnel "are always reviewed by the Internal Affairs Service."

The IAS is an independent office tasked to probe cops for possible violations. 

IAS Inspector-General Alfegar Triambulo, who was appointed by Duterte, formerly headed the National Police Commission in the Davao region where the president hails from.

Eleazar ended his statement by saying that the PNP will submit to the decision of President Duterte on the release of documents on police operations on illegal drugs.

“As a law enforcement agency under the Executive branch of the government, we are bound by time-honored protocols and these must be followed under the concept of chain of command," he said.

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