Duterte-War-On-Drugs

CHICAGO – Talk is cheap when it comes from a man trying to win the heart of a woman or when a politician is trying to win votes in a campaign sortie. But when a woman says “yes” or when the politician wins in the election, all their promises become “sweet nothings.”

“A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” — Proverbs 25:14

This seems to be the view of human rights activists, who now want President Duterte to abandon his election promise “to kill 100,000 drug dealers and addicts.”

The activists believe that the policy of lumping drug dealers with drug addicts “whose brains had shrunk” in the words of Duterte and “had no more room for rehabilitation” should be revisited as the President is “not a competent person like a medical health specialist to declare such diagnosis,” said human rights activist Marlon L. Pecson.

The activists also want the President to break his promise just as he broke his campaign promise to “jet ski to the disputed Scarborough Shoal to plant the Philippine flag” there. After his election, Duterte explained what he had said, commenting, “It was a hyperbole… You cannot expect me to ride (a jet ski), I don’t even know how to swim.”

A staunch Filipino-American supporter of President Duterte, Rev. Arnedo S. Valera, said that Duterte is now facing two wars – PNP (Philippine National Police) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA’s) war against drug lords, drug pushers and drug addicts, and the war between drug cartels vs drug cartels, drug lords, police scalawags, vigilantes and corrupt politicians, all fighting for dominance in the drug trade.

If this is true, I would urge the President to just let the cartels’ war play out as they eliminate each other, then goes full steam with his own war on drugs until the police and the PDEA agents are properly re-trained on the human-rights guidelines they would apply in their operations against drug suspects. Also these police officers and agents should be armed with body cameras to dispel any suspicion of cover-ups when they resume their operations.

Pecson, an “Apostle of the Rule of Law” but voted for Duterte during the 2016 elections, told Valera not to tag this columnist and others as “enemies of the administration” because they are only freely exercising their rights to free expressions.

Since Duterte has refused to honor his pledge to jet-ski to Scarborough, what harm would it do if he gives himself a pause in his drug war against the drug lords and drug addicts? During the pause, his police officers and agents could step up their training to enable them to comply with human rights rules, and he could further validate his theory that “drug addicts, whose brains had shrunk, have really no more chance to be cured.”

Valera, chairperson of U.S. Pinoys for Real Change in the Philippines (USPRCP), a law graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University, an immigration lawyer and human rights advocate in Metropolitan Washington, D.C., said, “When you blame the President, our police and our military for all the killings nationwide, you are not only unfairly presuming that our government and police are all killers who are out there with orders to kill anyone involved in drugs but you are also destroying the basic notion of accountability of non-state actors in the second phase of the current Philippine drug war.

“That is why, it is the height of political hypocrisy for a U.S Congressional Committee to conduct a hearing on a sovereign country, whose political leader is enjoying more than 82 percent popularity and has adopted a bold, decisive and strict enforcement of its domestic laws to combat and eradicate the drug problem nationwide under the rule of law and within the rule of law,” Valera said.

Here in the US, United States Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions, in a speech delivered at the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Training Conference in Dallas, Texas on July 11, 2017, noted that “drug abuse is not only a concern about treatment but law-enforcement prevention.”

In 2015, more than 52,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdose – 1,000 every week. More died of drug overdose in 2015 than those who died in car crashes.

In Mexico, there were more than 185,000 killings in so-called legitimate drug war operations.

“Last June, Mexico has 2,000 deaths in drug related police legitimate operations. Nobody including these human rights groups you are mentioning are raising the issue of extrajudicial killings,” Valera said.

“If you want to help the Philippine government build a stronger generation of the young, then you must support the Philippine drug war to say the least and at the same time exercise your right to demand accountability and give your constructive criticisms to strengthen our law-enforcement agencies and not to weaken them simply because you do not like President Duterte,” Valera said.

“Otherwise, you are becoming alter-egos of the political opposition and unwittingly becoming an enabler for the drug cartels, drug lords, police scalawags, vigilantes and corrupt politicians,” Valera said.

Pecson countered that it is not fair for Valera to tag human rights activists as “‘enemies of the administration’” because they are only freely exercising their rights to free expressions and to peaceably assemble.

In an open letter to Duterte, Filipino American human rights groups cited Amnesty International for its report that there are 7,0000 victims of extrajudicial killings of suspects in illegal drugs in the Philippines or being simply drug addicts, while the U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Human Rights Report also stated that “police and unknown vigilantes have killed more than  6,000 suspected drug dealers and users’’ in the Philippines between July and December 2016, a period during which  extrajudicial killings `’increased sharply’; and allegedly undertaken by vigilantes, security forces, and insurgents.”

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he and his family now live in Chicago. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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