Lawmakers, enforcers want 'community-based' campaign vs drugs

Lawmakers, enforcers want 'community-based' campaign vs drugs
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-NCR agents inspect plastic bags containing a supected 500 grams of shabu with an estimated value of P3.4 million during an operation in Agham Road in Quezon City on Wednesday night, Aug. 10, 2022.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Law enforcement agencies urged the Senate to pass laws institutionalizing the barangay drug-clearing program of the Duterte administration's "war on drugs", saying a "whole-of-nation approach" similar to the anti-insurgency campaign would help end the drug problem in the country. 

At Tuesday's organizational meeting of the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs panel, lawmakers supportive of the drug war urged the national government to address what they said were the root causes of drug use. 

Neophyte Sen. Robin Padilla called it a "painful fact" that even local government units were involved in the entry of illegal drugs into the country as he urged more "community-based" responses to the country's drug problem. 

"Hindi naman makakalanding sa dagat kahit saan kung walang go signal ang local government," he claimed, saying only communities would know who the pushers and addicts were in their areas and localities. 

(The drugs will not land in any of our waters without the go signal of the local government)

"These are big syndicates. If we compare your budget to theirs, maybe yours would only be a fourth of theirs," he said, addressing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. 

Per figures from Real Numbers PH, the Duterte administration's "unitary report" on the gains of the war on drugs, there were over 10,000 barangays yet to be cleared of illegal drugs by the time Duterte stepped down from office at the end of June.

PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva told the Senate panel Tuesday that the number now stands at 9,693 drug-affected barangays around the country. 

Real Numbers, which aggregates data from the Philippine National Police, Dangerous Drugs Board, and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency also acknowledged 6,252 "persons who died during anti-drug operations."

The PNP has regularly attributed the deaths to "nanlaban" narratives, claiming drug suspects violently resisted arrest and forced officers to act in self-defense. The Department of Justice is reviewing anti-drug operations that resulted in deaths and irregularities have led to some cases being filed in court.

RELATED: DOJ: Four of 52 deadly PNP 'drug war' cases reviewed now in courts

Sen. Raffy Tulfo at the hearing Tuesday said that police are prone to abusing their power, pointing to reports he received while he was a broadcast personality of police breaching their standard operating procedures in arrests during road accidents.

"Now, the police immediately arrest the suspect or whoever they think is the suspect. They even strike the suspects on the nape," he said in mixed Filipino and English. 

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, himself a former PNP chief, said that body-worn cameras to be used by all officers on the field would ensure better transparency in operations moving forward. 

Legal aid for cops, death penalty for drug traffickers

In the list of the PNP's priority legislative agenda was free legal assistance for uniformed personnel. 

To recall, former President Rodrigo Duterte in his final State of the Nation Address pitched to Congress a bill that will provide free legal aid to military and cops charged over actions committed in the line of duty.

In the 19th Congress, that same bill has been filed by House Speaker Martin Romualdez (Leyte) and Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos (Ilocos Norte) in the form of House Bill No. 8, pending with the House committee on justice. 

The PNP also asked lawmakers to look into creating independent police law enforcement courts that will handle all civil and criminal cases involving PNP personnel. 

As it currently stands, Republic Act No. 10660 gives the Sandiganbayan exclusive original jurisdiction in all cases involving PNP officials with the position of provincial director, and those with ranks of colonel and higher.

Republic Act No. 6975 also mandates the creation of a People's Law Enforcement Board in municipalities and local government units which have jurisdiction to hear and decide citizen's complaints or cases filed before it against erring officers and members of the PNP.

Other laws of note in the PNP's presentation include: 

  1. Providing for re-organization and rightsizing of the Philippine National Police 
  2. Amending educational requirements for PNP applicants 
  3. Instituting the revitalized barangay police of the PNP 
  4. Educational assistance to the dependents of PNP personnel killed in the line of duty 

PDEA Director General Villanueva also backed the reimposition of the death penalty for drug trafficking. 

"Death penalty will send a clear message on the seriousness of the government's campaign to end the menace brought about by dangerous drugs. It must not however be seen as a tool to curtail the prospects of rehabilitating users and street-level pushers," he said in his presentation. 

"The ultimate aim is to go after big-time drug traffickers, coddlers, financiers, and protectors and at once, end the supply, demand, and harm posed by dangerous drugs in society."

Killings continue amid talk of addressing 'root causes' of drug use

Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos has said that his department will continue the Duterte administration's "war on drugs" but with a new approach.

However, according to Dahas, a running count of the reported drug-related killings in the Philippines maintained by the Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines Diliman, the killings continue to this day, over a month after Duterte stepped down from public office. 

On the week of August 1 to 7, the fifth week of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s administration, the project documented seven drug-related killings, five of which were in Cebu. 

Kabataan party-list, in a separate statement, called for justice for Kian Delos Santos and all other victims of former President Duterte’s "fake and bloody drug war", especially the youth. 

"We will not forget Kian’s last words as he was gunned down mercilessly by police personnel. No one should have to beg a police officer to let him take the exam the next day," said Rep. Raoul Manuel (Kabataan) in mixed Filipino and English.

"Many lives and dreams have been killed by Duterte's fake war on drugs. Now that he is no longer president, this should be investigated and Duterte and his accomplices should be held accountable for the blood they spilled,” he also said.

"Above all, we must be clear that the suppression of the drug problem is based on respect and promotion of human rights, not on its violation." — Franco Luna 

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