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‘Never waver’ in war on drugs, cops told as PNP, PDEA hit back at ICC

PRESIDENT Duterte has called anew on law enforcement authorities and the country’s prosecutors to keep the flames burning in their war on drugs amid the new normal brought by COVID-19 as he recently led the destruction of more than P7.5 billion worth of shabu and other prohibited drugs in a special treatment facility in Trece Martirez City in Cavite.

Mamang PulisIn his speech before top officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency headed by Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva and Philippine National Police chief, General Debold M. Sinas, the fighting former Davao City mayor told the country’s law enforcers and prosecutors to “never waver” in the fight against illegal drug trafficking and abuse despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The President said that drug traffickers “do not cease in their criminal activities” despite the pandemic and thus, law enforcers and prosecutors must ‘remain steadfast in our campaign not only by intensifying our operations against drug trafficking, but also by reforming our criminal justice system and addressing the root causes of drug use and dependency.”

The president’s appeal came even as the PDEA and the PNP leaderships lashed at the latest International Criminal Court (ICC) report about murders and torture being committed by Duterte law enforcement agents as a result of their war on drugs and described the charges as ‘grossly unfair, unjustifiable and one-sided.’

In a statement, Villanueva said they remain skeptical on how the ICC came up with their findings solely on the basis of open-source information.

“The report of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that there is “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity of murder, torture and the infliction of serious physical injury and mental harm as other inhumane acts were committed during the PH war on drugs campaign, was grossly unfair, unjustifiable and one-sided,” he said.

Villanueva said that “like all other well-founded reports, the ICC report should show proof and undergo the standard validation and vetting process before arriving at any firm conclusions.”

According to the official, the ICC should have waited for the release of the report of an inter-agency panel created by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the apparent drug-related killings, rather than issuing general statements that are yet to be proven without the aid of a formal and local investigation.

The PNP also maintained the legitimacy of their accomplishments on the Duterte government’s war on drugs since July 2016 saying their accusers here and abroad must present factual evidence to prove their claims or those charges will remain as ‘rehashed and fabricated ones.’

PNP spokesman, Brigadier General Ildebrandi N. Usana, said Malacañang has already provided the official position of the national government regarding the latest report from the ICC which ironically did not say anything about the dozens of policemen and soldiers who have been killed by armed and dangerous drug traffickers over the past four years.

“Nagbigay na po ang Palasyo ng reaksyon as regards the ICC report. We give it to Malacañang. In so far as the official position of the government, hindi po nire-recognize ang ICC report,” Usana said as he maintained the need for their accusers to present reliable and factual evidence.

“Kasama po ‘yun sa usapin ng human rights. Kailangan naman po siguro na makita ho ano ba ‘yung mga pieces of evidence na nagsasabi na may violation of human rights po,” said the official who used to be the director of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office.

Every year since the start of the Duterte administration, the ICC had made the same repeated charges that Duterte and his law enforcement authorities have committed human rights violations as a result of the crackdown against illegal drug trafficking and abuse.

Officials from the time of PNP chief and now Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ M. dela Rosa who started the PNP’s tough campaign against powerful drug lords and their ilk have maintained that the rehashed narratives of alleged police abuses remain unproven and devoid of truth from the beginning but have been repeatedly told and retold over and over again to make it sound factual.

The ICC made a similar claim last year, even adding that rape and other abuses have been committed by the police as a result of the campaign against illegal drugs.

The PNP leadership headed by Sinas has maintained the regularity of all police operations in its major campaign against crime, illegal drugs, and terrorism and added that the possibility of confrontation with armed suspects is always present each time officers go after defiant criminals.

Latest RealNumbersPH figures show that from July 1, 2016 to last October 31, government law enforcement agents led by the PNP and the PDEA have conducted a total of 183,525 anti-illegal drug operations which led to the arrest of 266,126 suspects, 10,721 of them identified as ‘high-value targets’ and the killing of 5,942 armed drug personalities following gunbattles with officers.

During the same period, government agents seized P56,26 billion worth of drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals. Of the total amount, P46,42 billion are shabu or the so-called ‘poor man’s cocaine.’

“I am asking the brave men and women of our law enforcement agencies, the prosecution service and the judiciary to never waver in their difficult, yet rewarding task,” Sinas said as he again lashed at so-called rights defenders whom he said are “preoccupied” with the life of criminals and renewed his advice for law enforcement agents to fire back at armed criminals when they start shooting since he will take responsibility for deaths in operations.