‘War on drugs now just cover for cops’ crimes’

Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes

MANILA — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and leftist coalition Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) are in agreement: the abduction, extortion and killing of Korean Jee Ick-joo, by no less than police officers, has shown that the Duterte administration’s “war on drugs” has just worsened the culture of impunity.

“Amid the rising toll of extrajudicial killings in the country, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has become a convenient cover for rogue elements within the Philippine National Police to commit other crimes, such as kidnapping for ransom of foreign nationals,” the human rights agency said in a statement.

In a protest rally outside the PNP headquarters on Friday, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes made a similar observation: “The war on drugs is now just being used [as an excuse] to commit other crimes like kidnapping for ransom and murder, and no one is being held accountable.”

“We call on the President not to give a blanket endorsement for the ‘war on drugs’ as justification for killings, because now the police think it’s okay to commit crimes because they won’t be held liable for it,” Reyes said in Filipino.

In a statement, Reyes ran down the instances of police overstepping boundaries the past year: “They think they can get away with the killing of a drug suspect inside a jail cell. They think they can kidnap and murder a foreigner inside the police camp. They think it’s OK to run over unarmed protesters with a police van. They think they can plant evidence, coerce witnesses and cover up all their crimes.”

“Unless the socioeconomic basis for the proliferation of illegal drugs is addressed, the drug problem will persist and the drug war will continue to target the poor. Impunity will only further erode whatever little is left of the credibility of the police force. Impunity will only generate resistance from the people,” Reyes warned.

The CHR underscored it is now an “imperative” to revisit the antinarcotics campaign, and called on the government to “respect human rights and abide by the principles of due process.”

“The Commission reminds the PNP to strictly adhere to its Police Operational Procedures, the UN Code of Conduct of Police Officers, and to remember that the PNP must promote and protect human rights because this task lies at the very core of maintaining peace and order, ensuring public safety and upholding the rule of law in the country as contained in their PNP Guidebook on Human Rights Based-Policing,” the CHR said.