The campaign must go on

Published April 7, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola


The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which President Duterte appointed to lead the anti-drugs campaign, reported last week that in the 21 months from July 1, 2016, to March 20, 2018, law enforcement agents conducted 91,704 operations, arrested 123,648 drug suspects, and killed 4,075 in the course of the operations.

Earlier, last October 10, 2017, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Directorate for Operations reported 71,578 operations in 15 months, the surrender of 1,262,188 suspects, and the killing of 3,933. That official PNP report was issued in the wake of so many unofficial reports of deaths in the drive. One report at the time said as many as 9,000 suspected drug dealers and users had been killed. Another report gave an “unofficial count” of 14,000 “extrajudicial killings and other human rights incidents.”

We welcome the release of these official figures to set right the many conflicting figures in the initial months of the anti-drugs campaign when the PNP was in charge. These early reports raised concerns among officials of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and countries like the United States and members of the European Union . These same reports are the ones now being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). We should be able to face the world and answer all questions about our anti-drug operations.

Locally, the PNP should also be able to provide the Supreme Court with documents on the number of people killed, dates, and places in police operations. The court had ordered the PNP to submit these reports last December, 2017, in a case challenging the constitutionality of the PNP drive, but the Solicitor General had filed a motion for consideration of the SC order, claiming the documents sought by the SC had sensitive information with national security implications.

The anti-drugs campaign continues to this day. The initial shock of the many killings has given way to a realization that the problem of drugs has been more widespread than suspected. Any police excesses at the start of the nationwide drive have been corrected, with the PDEA now leading the drive.

The anti-drugs drive has public support and must continue, with the new emphasis on exposing the officials who have not only tolerated it but have also profited from it. More open reporting in media as well as in court cases will help the government in this campaign.