PNP asks P900M budget for drug war ops for 2018

MANILA, Philippines – "Ito ay pondo ng killing spree (These are funds for a killing spree)."

Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas, during late-night deliberations on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) budget, said on Wednesday, September 6, that government should not be allocated P900 million for the Philippine National Police (PNP)'s Oplan Double Barrel or its anti-drug campaign.

For 2018, the PNP is asking for P131.5 billion, a P20-billion increase from its 2017 budget. Over P900 million is being budgeted for Double Barrel Reloaded, the 3rd iteration of the PNP's drug war plan. The PNP asked for the same amount in 2017.

In a press conference on Thursday, September 7, Brosas, a member of the majority-allied Makabayan bloc, said the amount was "questionable" since the funds were being used to "kill the poor."

President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs and the PNP's role in it has been controversial since the get-go.

Double Barrel has two components – Project High-Value Target, which zeroes in on top-level personalities in the drug trade, and Oplan Tokhang, a literal "knock and plead" operation meant to make alleged drug personalities "surrender to police."

Police have been accused of human rights violations and resorting to extrajudicial means in the name of the drug war, a charge they deny.

Brosas criticized the PNP for failing to provide information. During the plenary debates, the lawmaker asked the police for information on how many "big fish" in the drug trade have been killed and how many of the nearly 3,800 dead due to police operations were "small-time" personalities. She also asked them to give a breakdown of the socioeconomic classes of those killed in operations.

The PNP was unable to give data but said it would submit the same to Congress.

When asked how the P900 million has been and is being spent in 2017, the PNP said it was used for "travel expenses, training and scholarship, supplies and materials," among others. But when Brosas asked for a specific breakdown of the amount, the PNP again said they would give the information later.

Speaking to media on Thursday, Brosas said the PNP's "bloody" operations focus only on poor communities and leave the richer ones – posh villages, for instance – alone.

The PNP has again been in the spotlight following the death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, a teenager from Caloocan City who was killed in what police claim was a legitimate operation. Delos Santos allegedly fought back against police but evidence thus far has contradicted their claims. The Caloocan cops who killed Delos Santos now face murder charges.

The DILG budget was eventually passed in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday.

"The blood-stained DILG budget, with a P900-million allocation for PNP-sponsored killings, was passed in the dead of the night as another alleged drug suspect was shot dead in Manila. This is very telling of how monsters love the dead of the night," said Brosas.

A war on drugs was among Duterte's key campaign promises during the 2016 elections. – Rappler.com