MANILA, Philippines – As killings of suspected drug offenders and other lawbreakers continue, the country’s national police chief is seeking forgiveness from God as well as prayers from the people in whose name, he said, criminals were being dealt with severely.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa voiced his pleas for forgiveness and prayers “for Christmas gift” in remarks during the PNP’s Christmas party at its national headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City yesterday, attended by policemen and their families.
“Sorry Lord, forgive us, but all I can say is we’re doing this not for ourselves or for whatever purpose – not for our personal gain, but for the future of our nation,” Dela Rosa said in Filipino.
He said policemen who kill drug suspects also need prayers.
While admitting that policemen have no right to kill people, some of them end up killing suspects in situations beyond their control, Dela Rosa explained.
“The Christmas gift we’re wishing for policemen is prayer for the Lord’s forgiveness. Even if those who have died are bad, they are still people, they are still human beings and they still deserve to live and we have no right to take their lives – but things happen because we don’t have complete control of the situation,” Dela Rosa said in english and Filipino.
Almost 6,000 people have been killed in the intensified police campaign against illegal drugs since July, according to the PNP National Operation Center.
From July 1 to Dec. 18, police killed 2,124 drug users and pushers who put up a fight while 2,928 other drug offenders died under sketchy circumstances.
The NOC said a total of 41,575 illegal pushers and users surrendered in 39,358 police operations. Police visited a total of 5,339,475 houses under Project Tokhang, resulting in the surrender of 940,803 people, including 73,504 pushers and 867,299 users.
Dela Rosa stressed they were not happy killing people involved in drugs, especially the poor. He said he himself grew up in a very poor family but he never got involved in illegal drugs.
He stressed it’s a serious injustice if policemen get killed in the line of duty – especially while tackling drug offenders.
“Letting a policeman get killed to preserve the life of a criminal is a great injustice in this world. We can’t let good people die and bad guys live,” he pointed out.
Dela Rosa added he could understand the feeling of apprehension of some people about the government’s tough campaign against illegal drugs.
“To those who feel apprehensive about the turn of events, I’m not trying to be self righteous, I’m not bragging about anything. If we have victory, we also have defeats,” he said.
“If they fear for their lives because they are possible victims of EJK, well that’s how they feel, bear with it. On our part in the PNP, we’ll make sure this will never happen, this should never happen,” he said. EJK stands for extrajudicial killing.
“So, indeed there had been killings, so forgive us. We’re not saying we’re behind the EJKs you’re talking about. Many have joined the bandwagon of the war on drugs, but still they become victims because of our war on drugs,” he added. “The blame is still on us because we initiated this war on drugs.”
The PNP chief also cited the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing 85 percent of Filipinos satisfied with the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“It shows the true sentiment of the Filipino people. These people who are satisfied are the ones who are not noisy,” he said.
He called critics of the campaign hypocrites.
“I challenge them. They are hypocrites if they won’t admit they are benefiting from the peace brought by our war on drugs,” he said.
At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar assured the public yesterday the campaign against illegal drugs is not directed against innocent people.
He also maintained the Duterte administration does not condone extrajudicial killings.
“We recognize our people’s concern as we assure them that the government’s anti-drug operations are not aimed at poor, innocent, hapless individuals,” Andanar said in a statement.
“Extrajudicial killings are not state-sponsored and we denounce riding-in-tandem murders perpetrated by common criminals wrongly attributed in news reports as part of police operations,” he added.
Andanar insisted law enforcers conduct “legitimate police operations that require observance of operational protocols.”
“Police authorities who violate procedures are made to answer before the law. Suspected drug personalities who resist and fight back with arms have to be dealt with appropriately,” he said.
“The proper enforcement of our laws requires the use of reasonable force merited by the attendant circumstances,” he added.
Andanar also thanked those who have expressed satisfaction with the government’s efforts to curb the drug menace.
“Rest assured that the Duterte administration respects the law and upholds the basic rights of our people, regardless of beliefs and political persuasions,” he said.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno, for his part, asked mayors and governors to organize their respective Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (BADAC) and allocate the necessary budget in support of President Duterte’s anti-illegal drug thrust.
Sueno said the 42,036 barangays in the country are in the grassroots and their officials “in-the-know” regarding basic issues and concerns in their communities.
“The drug problem is a national problem that can be targeted and solved at the barangay level,” said Sueno.
“Illegal drug activities happen in neighborhoods. The barangays, as the smallest local government units, are our first source of information and first line of defense,” he stressed.
“Barangay-level approach is also a way of promoting whole-of-government and participatory strategy in suppressing drug abuse and trafficking,” he added.
An administration lawmaker also defended the Duterte administration’s vicious war on drugs, saying it was meant to protect the welfare of the innocent 96 million or so Filipinos as against the reported four million drug dependents.
“The drug addicts who have been so because of the drug lords and pushers who made them are between three to four million people. And this excludes the other millions of Filipinos whose lives these drug dependents destroy,” 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero pointed out.
“We also have to look at the fact that three to four million people are being affected by the drug plague,” he said. “The war on drugs is like a war against a plague.
“Let’s give President Duterte a chance to rid us once and for all of a society governed by drugs. War on drugs is like a war we wage against a plague. Both go to all streams of society, it does not choose rich or poor like a plague,” he added.
Meanwhile, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chief Guiling Mamondiong said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) should look for ways to protect the rights of victims of drug addicts and pushers instead of criticizing the war on drugs.
“I challenge the CHR and the opposition to join the war of President Duterte against illegal drugs and find out what they can do to protect the rights of the victims of drug lords, drug protectors and drug pushers. In this way, they will be able to make up for the failures of the past administration,” Mamondiong said in a statement.
Mamondiong headed the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC) before becoming TESDA director general.
He said the MRRD-NECC was established before the May 2016 national elections to help Duterte in his campaign to make the country crime-free, drug-free, corruption-free, insurgency-free and poverty-free.
“The rising incidents of crimes against women and children are drug-related. Molestation and rape cases committed against minors by their parents are drug-related. This is how serious the drug problem in the country is,” he explained.
Duterte has lambasted the CHR for calling his attention to rising cases of summary executions of drug suspects and addicts.
With Delon Porcalla, Alexis Romero, Mayen Jaymalin, Emmanuel Tupas