War on drugs a 'major catastrophe,' says Etta Rosales

MANILA, Philippine – The war on drugs has become a “major catastrophe,” former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Etta Rosales said on Friday, October 27, in a press briefing at the Shrine of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Caloocan City for the anticipated “National Healing Walk” along EDSA with victims of extra-judicial killings on November 5.

“This whole drug war is a major catastrophe, a debacle—call it whatever you want, but it is definitely not solving anything,” Rosales said, referring to the campaign against illegal drugs, which is the centerpiece program of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Rosales said that since the beginning the approach of the campaign to eliminate drugs was wrong and illegal.

"They are actually violating the law," she said. "The law is 9165, Republic of Dangerous Drugs Law that says it is the Dangerous Drugs Board that takes care of policy-making with respect to the solutions to the drug problem, and it is PDEA that takes care of the operations. That is the law.”

Rosales is referring to Sections 77 and 82, respectively, of the RA 9165, which states that the The Dangerous Drugs Board “shall be the policy-making and strategy-formulating body in the planning and formulation of policies and programs on drug prevention and control,” and that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) "shall be responsible for the efficient and effective law enforcement of all the provisions on any dangerous drug.”

Even as the leadership of the war has been lifted from the Philippine National Police, Rosales said that this does not mean that the police force’s previous mistakes should be forgotten.

“They are just rectifying the gross violation of the law which they committed in the first place. They should never have allowed the PNP [to operate]. And of course the President is responsible for this.”

The big march

The National Healing Walk, expected to gather at least 30,000 people on November 5 will begin at the EDSA Shrine towards the People Power Monument.

Expected to join are members of the Church, including Caloocan Bishop Pablo David, and families of the victims of the drug war.

With its theme, "Stop the killings. Justice heals," the march aims to bring families together and eliminate their fear. 

The theme of the event also reflects a statement made by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on September 12 against the spate of drug-related killings. "In the name of God, stop the killings! May the justice of God come upon those responsible for the killings!" said the CBCP statement. 

Lea Calano for one said she will march to EDSA to fight for her slain cousin’s justice. Calano’s cousin, Jomar Mundido was killed in February by unknown assailants in Quezon City. As if the trauma was not enough, Calano said there have been many times that she would walk home to Bagong Silang, Caloocan only to see a dead body sprawled on the street.

Already fearful of seeing fresh blood, Calano said she does not go home to her family’s house in Caloocan anymore.

"Ang iniiwasan ko po talaga ay matyempohan ko yung mismong pag-baril. Malay mo sa iba tumama yung bala. O malay mo, ako na yung matamaan," she said. (I want to avoid the chance I might see an actual shooting. I fear the bullet might somebody else, or even me.)

Calano, now a member of Youth Resist, appeals to families like her's to join the march and fight together.

The destabilizer

As in all protests, Rosales knows she will be called a “destabilizer of the country” by defenders of the Duterte administration. To the former CHR chair however, the term is but a tool “used conveniently to silence critics.”

“To me, the most active destabilizer of the Duterte government is Mr. Duterte himself. He is the one who wants to set up a revolutionary government, eh Presidente na siya,” Rosales said.

“Why would you revolutionize against yourself? You are already the President of the government. Why should you not try to improve the government?”

“Marcos used to do this, that’s why we were imprisoned! He is doing a Marcos. He loves Marcos.”   – Rappler.com