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Drive must continue but ensure vs abuses

THERE is an apocryphal story making the rounds, that drug suspects arrested by the police ask that they be handcuffed with their hands behind their backs instead of in front. This way they cannot be accused later of trying to grab a policeman’s gun and suffering fatal consequences.

In the ongoing police campaign against drugs, cases of arrests and surrenders have been reported all over the country, along with gunbattles and the resultant deaths of drug suspects. Drug caches have been found. The biggest one so far was R900 million worth of shabu found buried in Cagayan. These are indeed welcome developments.

Last week, however, a woman in Pasay City appealed for justice for her husband and his father. Pasay police, she said, went to their home and arrested her husband on drug charges. His father, fearing for his son’s life, accompanied him to the police station. Hours later, the two were dead; the police claimed the suspect had tried to grab the gun of an officer removing his handcuffs.

We cannot allow incidents like this to negate all that has been achieved by the Duterte administration’s campaign on drugs. All over the country, the campaign appears to be proceeding well. A hundred policemen were reported by the Central Luzon police regional director as being involved in illegal drug activities, either as protectors of drug pushers or as pushers themselves. One policeman, still in his uniform, was found dead in Bulacan, with a placard on his body saying “Pulis Pusher, Huwag Tularan.”

It has only been two weeks since the start of the new administration but the anti-drug campaign has proceeded at great speed, inspired, no doubt, by the call of President Duterte to kill any drug pusher who resists arrest. There is, however, also suspicion that some policemen are disposing of their own “assets” who might testify against them.

The killings have caused human rights activists to express concern. Newly elected Sen. Leila de Lima has called for a Senate inquiry as the Philippines, she said, could turn into a massive “killing field.” She filed a resolution to investigate the killings in aid of legislation; Rep. Teddy Baguilat filed a similar resolution in the House of Representatives.

The nationwide campaign against drugs must continue, but the national leadership, including the new chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, should take steps to ensure that it is not blackened by overzealous police operatives who might themselves be involved and are now trying to silence their contacts.