PNP on Ateneo drug war study: Human rights protection remains our top priority

Philippine National Police yesterday said it respects the opinion and results of studies by the Ateneo School of Government regarding the government’s war on drugs but maintained that protection of human rights remains their premium policy as officers go after armed traffickers across the country.

“The PNP respects the opinion and result of studies made by the academe.  But as an institution, let this be known to all, that we adhere to the rule of law, respect human rights, and value life. As any organization, we are not perfect. But this has not deterred us from intensifying internal cleansing to maintain discipline among our personnel and weed out from our ranks rogues, misfits and scalawags,” said PNP spokesman Colonel Bernard M. Banac.

The report said that more than 7,000 drug suspects—mostly poor, male breadwinners from Metro Manila — have been killed in the course of the Duterte government’s war on drugs since July 2016. The report did not include the number of law enforcers killed as a result of the crackdown against drugs, the latest Patrolman Ariel Dapyawen of Antipolo City who was shot dead by a shotgun-wielding wanted drug offender last Tuesday.

According to Banac, their internal cleansing program since 2016 have resulted in the identification of 8,440 police officers and men who were given disciplinary measures for various offenses and illegal acts.

“Out of this number, 4,500 were suspended and 2,600 were dismissed from the service. Of those dismissed, 322 were found positive for use of illegal drugs and 119 either for coddling, protecting drug suspects or not attending court duties,” he said.

“Despite this, we assure the public that the PNP remains committed to perform its mandate to enforce the law, dismantle drug syndicates, and assist the rehabilitation of drug users with transparency, and utmost respect for human rights,” said Banac.

The PNP spokesperson also reacted to the study which claimed there have been “vague or absent shortcuts” that compromise the rights to privacy and due process.

“(There were) no revisions in the implementing circulars. We leave it to the Court to decide on constitutional and other legal issues.  But as a dynamic organization, the PNP will always remain open to listen, and understand ways how to best serve our people.

“In fact, we have already introduced improvements in our law enforcement operations, such as the use of body cameras; the shift to reduction of drug supply by going after high value targets and big drug syndicates; the emphasis on adherence to rule of law and respect for human rights; and, the intensified PNP internal cleansing,” he said.

“But, insofar as illegal drugs is concerned, make no mistake, the PNP will never fail to honor its commitment to enforce the law, destroy the illegal drug menace, and keep the peace and order in our land with transparency, adherence to the rule of law and utmost respect for human rights,” the PNP spokesman said..

Banac said that the Cebu police is also investigating an alleged incident of police brutality during a recent anti-narcotics operation.

“We assure the public that we will get to the bottom of this. If found that PNP personnel may be involved or have committed illegal acts, we will never tolerate it especially now that the PNP is serious in its internal cleansing program. They will be slapped with both administrative and criminal charges if evidence warrants,” he said.

Banac maintained that police are always under orders to adhere to the rule of law, obey prescribed standard operating procedures and respect human rights during all law enforcement operations.