'More bloodshed, deaths' as PNP returns to war on drugs, says rights orgs

MANILA, Philippines – Human rights organizations warn that the return of the Philippine National Police (PNP) into the war on drugs may spell out more problems than before.  

“Brace for more bloodshed,” Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s Deputy Asia Director, said on Thursday, November 23. 

Amnesty International (AI), meanwhile, said that the return of the drug war on the hands of the police would be a “human rights disaster.”  

“The police’s return to these operations could mean many more deaths,” James Gomez, AI’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said. 

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, November 22, said that he has no choice but to bring back the police in his violent anti-illegal drugs campaign as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency may not be capable enough to implement it. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: PDEA on leading the drug war without the PNP) 

"As of now, just to parry, linagay ko sa PDEA (I designated PDEA as the sole agency). Whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police because surely, it will increase the activity of the (inaudible)," he said.

Duterte designated PDEA as the “sole agency” in charge of the drug war on October 2017 after  PNP faced public outrage due to deaths of teenagers. (READ: Get to know PDEA)

Both local and international organizations have criticized Duterte’s campaign for the number of deaths – Around 3,967 suspected drug personalities have been killed during police operations as of October 25.

Now, with the drug war again on the hands of those suspected to carry out police abuses, AI and HRW are wary that accountability and justice will not be happening anytime soon. 

“The Duterte government’s apparent desire to resume the murderous drug war underscores the need for a United Nations-led international investigation into the killings,” Kine said. “Until that happens, the number of victims denied justice and accountability will likely only continue to grow.”

Gomez, meanwhile, reiterated the call of AI and other human rights organizations regarding the best way to approach the proliferation of illegal drugs in the Philippines – treating drug addiction as a health problem. (READ: Drug addiction is a health problem. Somebody please tell the President.)

“What the Philippines needs is not an expansion of the murderous war on drugs led by police who show no reform,” he said. “[It needs] a health-based drug policy that respects human rights and the rule of law.” – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.