Press Release
November 24, 2017

*Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Duterte's plan to bring the PNP back to the drug war

President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to return command of the campaign against drugs to the hands of the Philippine National Police (PNP), despite the current plight of corruption and abuse plaguing the police institution, is not only ill advised, but a real danger to the public and the greater goal of true peace and order.

Returning the anti-drug campaign to an unreformed PNP is a slide back into the nightmare of Tokhang. It is a return to the horrors of extrajudicial killings. It opens up the dangerous possibility of another Kian Delos Santos, of hundreds if not thousands more dead, and the further loss of trust of the public in our police force. This is especially relevant given that the police officers involved in the death of Kian delos Santos were found to have killed him deliberately, and the recent discovery that elements of the PNP are providing security services to big-time drug personalities.

The plan by the President to bring the PNP back to the government's war on illegal drugs is also unwarranted.

It punishes success and rewards failure. The government's anti-drug campaign under the PDEA is making significant strides. From July to November of this year, the PDEA has arrested a total of 117,268 drug personalities and conducted 78,619 anti-drug operations wherein some 2,525.77 kilos of shabu worth P18.9 billion were seized in the same period. This includes a raid by the PDEA near the Malacañang compound seizing P 15 million worth of illegal drugs.

I suspect that President Duterte does not want the PDEA's alternative anti-drug approach, which is less bloody and more observant of the rule of law and human rights, to succeed. PDEA's alternative approach is already shaming the President's abusive and inefficient Oplan Tokhang and teaching the public that there is a better way to address the country's drug problem.

I call on the Duterte government to let the PDEA continue leading the country's anti-drug campaign. The PNP and other law enforcement agencies can take a secondary and coordinating role to augment the agency's organizational limitations.

I also call on the government to implement a public health approach side by side with a modern and rules-based law enforcement strategy to respond to the drug problem. The government must include a comprehensive public health approach to the country's drug policy and establish appropriate barangay-based programs and services for drug-related issues and concerns. I reiterate, the drug problem is a fundamental health issue and not just a peace and order concern.

We cannot return to a Tokhang past. We cannot inflict this nightmare upon our countrymen and women anew. The most important step for the PNP is to cleanse its ranks, regain the trust of the public and redeem its reputation. We also need to see to it that the investigation of the EJK cases that happened during the time of PNP-led Tokhang pushes through and justice is served. Only then can we banish the specter of fear and death and move forward towards the dream of genuine safety.

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