POSTSCRIPT / February 2, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Drug drive unravels after 7-K murders?

WILL SUSPENSION of the Duterte administration’s campaign against the drug menace lead to its unraveling after piling up a grisly score of 7,000 suspects summarily killed over seven bloody months?

President Rodrigo Duterte will have to think fast how to resume his drug drive and recapture the same momentum – this time with respect for human rights and due process – if he wants to show periodic reports of sectional successes.

If he sticks to his crude formula of just killing off the four million drug dealers/users on his list, he would not be able to cripple the narco monster even with the stretching of his timeframe from its initial 6+6 months to the five years until the end of his term in June 2022.

It is obvious that his vaunted “Kill ‘em” approach will not work. As President Duterte must have realized by now, his Davao DDS formula does not apply in these fair islands where people still have respect for life.

One of the reasons why the campaign may unravel is that he needs a killing machine to pursue it. At his disposal is the Philippine National Police, but he himself has just denounced it as rotten to the core, estimating that at least 40 percent of its members are corrupt. He knows.

A fallback is the military which the Commander-in-Chief has just ordered — it seems to us without careful study – to arrest “rogue” policemen, which we interpret to refer to cops whose behavior stains the uniform. The military, however, still knows where its loyalty lies.

After the police and the armed forces are ruled out for carrying out the massive killing, who can Duterte tap to execute in the next five years the four million Filipinos he has linked to the narcotics problem?

The only way his “Kill ‘em” short-cut could succeed – as President Duterte had hinted a number of times – is for him to stage a coup from the center, declare one-man rule, round up the drug suspects, improve on Marcos and do a Hitler.

But that would create a Frankenstein’s monster more hideous than the menace it seeks to subdue. Dictatorship had been tried before and it did not work.

Unerring guide: Just follow the law

THIS MAY be oversimplifying it, but in whatever Duterte does as president, a sure way to find a measure of deserved success is to FOLLOW THE LAW.

Despite the culture of violence now enveloping us, we still cringe hearing of police raiders rounding up SUSPECTS (not convicts) and executing them on the spot… in a dark alley, in the supposed safety of their homes… and not being made to account for the summary killings.

The law – written in the books and imbedded in our conscience – has always been there. Only self-styled leaders, including demagogues, blinded by mental disorders or lust for power are unable to see and obey the law.

It is disconcerting that outside voices have to be raised to remind us about the law. Human Rights Watch, for instance, has to remark that the suspending of the drug campaign does not provide accountability for the deaths of some 7,000 suspects.

Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director, said: “Suspending police anti-drug operations could reduce the killings, but they won’t stop without a meaningful investigation into the 7,000 deaths already reported. The Philippine police won’t seriously investigate themselves, so the United Nations should take the lead in conducting an investigation.”

Here we go again, with suggestions that an outside independent body, such as a proper UN agency, conduct an impartial investigation. Are they implying that we Filipinos are not capable of conducting fair hearings? We resent the insinuation, but ….

Will Duterte again denounce and curse what he had called “foreign meddling” and leave the problem to fester? We hope not.

Our own Commission on Human Rights has welcomed the pause in the brutal drug drive, saying it is recognition of the campaign’s flaws and its being open to abuse.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said: “It underscores the need to ensure a highly professionalized and competent police force that will be cognizant of the rights of the citizenry it seeks to protect. It is an acknowledgment that there are gaps in the system and there may always be those who shall advance their own selfish interests.”

SC steps into Tokhang abuses

THERE are other positive developments that President Duterte must acknowledge and handle more carefully, with an open mind – and always guided by the law, due process and respect for human life.

Days after Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno observed a “diminished perception of the rule of law” in the country because of the countless unresolved killings, the Supreme Court stepped in and ordered the police to stop harassing the families of drug suspects.

The tribunal issued a writ of amparo against the PNP on petition of a survivor and the families of four drug suspects killed last year during a police operation in Payatas, Quezon City.

The temporary protection order referring to the specific case prevents operatives of the QC Police Station 6, which conducted the operation last year, from entering within a one-kilometer radius of the residence and work places of the petitioners.

When similar petitions are filed, the court and the police will have their hands full, considering the thousands of bereaved families affected by the Oplan Tokhang, the nationwide police anti-illegal drug operation.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 2, 2017)

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