Police chief wants to reform anti-drug campaign through “holistic” approach

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. announced on October 3, 2022, that he intends to copy the strategy of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in combating the country’s illegal drug problem. In doing so, he said he wants to also take a “holistic” approach, involving every relevant government agency in the so-called “war on drugs”.

The PNP chief also claimed that there were a total of 1,952 arrests and no deaths in the 1,790 anti-drug operations conducted from September 1 to 17, 2022. However, following a shootout with the police, at least two persons were killed during the said period. This was observed by Dahas, a collaborative research project of the Third World Studies Center of the Philippine University UP Diliman and the Department of Conflict and Development Studies of Ghent University in Belgium.

On October 5, 2022, Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla assured during the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva that the Philippine government is committed to protecting human rights and holding human rights violators accountable. The government is undertaking a “transformative reform of the justice and law enforcement sectors”, the Justice Secretary said. He called on civil society organisations, witnesses, and families of victims to continue to provide information and submit cases to assist the review panel in its investigations to secure justice. The ministry would also ensure a comprehensive witness protection programme to provide support and security to the victims.

However, numerous national and international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch called on the UNHRC to pass a “strict resolution” on the Philippines. This is because extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the “war on drugs” still continue brutally under the Marcos government. Remulla, however, said in Geneva that the Philippine government knows best “what is good for Filipinos”. To the regret of human rights groups, the UNHRC session ended without another resolution on the Philippines.

For the anti-drugs campaign, Marcos promised a new approach with a focus on “rehabilitation, prevention, education and assistance to victims and their families”.

Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan continued to urge, as based on a letter from September 22, 2022, for the reopening of the investigation into the EJKs in the context of the “war on drugs” in the Philippines. The Philippine government has already rejected this request on September 8. Justice Secretary Remulla deplored Kahn’s renewed request as interference by a foreigner who thinks “it is so easy to run the government from our side of the fence”.

Relatives of EJK victims accused the Philippine Secretary of Justice of double standards on Oct. 18, 2022, as his son Juanito Jose Remulla III was charged with drug trafficking in October. Remulla III had ordered P1.25 million pesos worth of high-quality marijuana and then refused a drug test, which would have prompted another indictment. The father does not see this as reason enough to resign as Secretary of Justice.

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