PNP defends war on drugs anew

By Martin Sadongdong

The Philippine National Police (PNP) stated Saturday that it was respecting the results of an academe-based study, which challenges the constitutionality of the national government’s anti-illegal drug war.

PIO Acting Chief PSSUPT Bernard Banac (PNP / MANILA BULLETIN)
PNP spokesman P/Col. Bernard Banac

The Ateneo School of Government released Friday the results of a study conducted by the Drug Archive, a database jointly culled by the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU) and University of the Philippines (UP), which showed that more than 7,000 drug suspects have already been killed in the three-year drug war.

This was comparatively higher than the 5,281 fatalities noted by the PNP from July 1, 2016 to February 28, 2019.

“The PNP respects the opinion and results of studies made by the academe,” said Police Colonel Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson.

“But as an institution, let this be known to all, that we adhere to the rule of law, respect human rights, and value life,” he added.

‘Human rights violations’

According to the Drug Archive study, a total of 5,021 deaths was recorded in the first 16 months of Duterte’s administration and about 2,000 more have died since then.

It said most of the victims were poor and were male breadwinners, and with a majority of the killings — about 2,475 deaths — occurring in Metro Manila.

Following closely in terms of casualty count were Central Luzon (Region 3), Calabarzon (Region 4A) and Central Visayas (Region 7).

Meanwhile, another study by the Drug Archive said that Oplan Tokhang (knock and plead) has violated a number of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the drug suspects.

Oplan Tokhang, which was blamed for majority of the deaths in the initial implementing stage of the drug war in 2016, refers now to the visitation of policemen into the houses of drug suspects to encourage them to undergo rehabilitation.

However, the study said Oplan Tokhang compromised the rights to privacy, due process, counsel, information and health of the subject of the operation.

On top of this, the study maintained that, under the Constitution, individuals should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and Tokhang operations offer a stark contrast of this rule.

For the PNP’s part, Banac said the police organization will not revise its implementing circulars pertaining to the drug war.

“We leave it to the Court to decide on constitutional and other legal issues,” he said.

Internal cleansing

With regards the issues on alleged human rights violations committed by the police, the PNP spokesperson said the organization “remains committed” in its internal cleansing campaign.

“As any organization, we are not perfect. But this has not deterred us form intensifying internal cleansing to maintain discipline among our personnel and weed out from our ranks rogues, misfits and scalawags,” Banac noted.

Since 2016, Banac said a total of 8,440 police personnel have already been disciplined for various offenses and illegal acts.

Of the number, 4,500 were suspended and 2,600 were dismissed from service.

Of the 2,600 dismissed personnel, 322 were found positive for illegal drug use and 119 either for coddling or protecting drug suspects, or not attending court duties, among others.

“Despite this, we assure the public that the PNP remains committed to perform its mandate to enforce the law, dismantle drug syndicates and assist the rehabilitation of drug users with transparency and utmost respect for human rights,” Banac stressed.