Drug war to continue, PNP to focus on ‘roots’: top cop

·Contributor
·4 min read
Relatives of drug war victims hold photographs of their slain loved ones with placards calling for justice, during a protest to commemorate President Rodrigo Duterte's final year in office, in Manila, Philippines, June 30, 2021. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)
Relatives of drug war victims hold photographs of their slain loved ones with placards calling for justice, during a protest to commemorate President Rodrigo Duterte's final year in office, in Manila, Philippines, June 30, 2021. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

The newly appointed chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that the police force will continue to crack down on illegal drugs, this time focusing on the “roots of the crime” after thousands were killed extrajudicially – mostly poor Filipinos – during former President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody drug war.

On Sunday (Aug 8), Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said that the PNP will study the roots of the drug problem.

“As [Interior and Local Government] Secretary Benhur [Abalos] said, we should really study the root of this crime. I think that is the very basic approach we could take,” Azurin said.

“What is needed is while we do our job, we also try to preserve human life because killing is not the solution,” he added.

Azurin noted that he will account for the anti-drug campaign, which will now focus on crime prevention.

“Basically, our focus is the crime prevention and the crime solution, and then we need to organize the community and mobilize them so we can have helping hands in maintaining peace,” the chief said.

The police head said that they will cooperate with local government units (LGUs) to know the drug situation in every barangay in the country.

Duterte’s drug war has been dubbed as “war on the poor” by progressives and families of the victims because police mostly targeted the poor in urban areas, where they accused alleged drug offenders of violently resisting arrest or “nanlaban” to justify opening fire on the victims.

This caught the attention of the international community and the International Criminal Court (ICC), prompting the latter to investigate Rodrigo Duterte on his war on drugs in Davao City prior to his presidency.

Possible return of ‘ninja cops’

Meanwhile, cop-turned-Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who was first known as Duterte’s right hand and the first PNP chief to violently implement the war on drugs, said that "ninja cops" or police officers involved in the illegal drug trade might come back to the force as they think the Marcos administration will not focus on the drug war.

In an interview with DZBB on Sunday (August 8), the Senate committee chair on public order and dangerous drugs, said there must be no letup in the offensive against drug syndicates.

“Whatever the agency, the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), the Napolcom (National Police Commission), to the PNP leadership, they should really ensure that the ‘ninja cops’ will not return to the service,” dela Rosa said.

“They were just waiting for President Duterte to leave Malacañang and they will try to find ways to be reinstated using whatever connections they find in whoever is in power. You know in our system of government, they try to find ways,” he added.

Drug war probe

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that they are prepared to share all data on Duterte’s “war on drugs” with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), after President and dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the Philippines will not rejoin the ICC amid its investigation on the drug war.

"If they want to conduct an activity [they must have the sanction of the] Philippine government. But since we are no longer members of the ICC, then what activities can be sanctioned when we're no longer part of the organization?" Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla said.

While the government claims that over 6,200 “drug personalities” died in official anti-drug operations by the police, human rights groups estimate up to 29,000 killings including those the government pointed to vigilantes and drug syndicates.

According to international human rights organization Amnesty International, the police have “systematically targeted mostly poor and defenceless people across the country while planting ‘evidence’, recruiting paid killers, stealing from the people they kill and fabricating official incident reports.”

“Under President Duterte’s rule, the national police are breaking laws they are supposed to uphold while profiting from the murder of impoverished people the government was supposed to uplift. The same streets Duterte vowed to rid of crime are now filled with bodies of people illegally killed by his own police,” the organizations said.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings. The views expressed are her own.

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