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‘Hunting Season’ Begins, Police Resume Anti-Drug War

DAVAO CITY – Police have resumed anti-narcotics campaign following a clamor from the public, but many human rights groups and politicians opposed to President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs fear that cases of extrajudicial killings will again rise as it was in the past.

Phelim Kine, Deputy Director for Asia of the Human Rights Watch, also echoed the same fear after Duterte resumed police anti-drug operations. “The source of that alleged (public) clamor was unlikely to be Manila’s urban poor areas, the epicenter of the killing zones linked to the drug war the Duterte began after taking office in June 2016.”

“Poor urban dwellers have constituted the vast majority of what nongovernmental organizations and media outlets estimate have been more than 12,000 victims of a killing campaign that Human Rights Watch research has linked to numerous extrajudicial executions by police and their agents. This effective “war on the poor” may constitute crimes against humanity,” Kine said.

Duterte suspended police anti-drug operations on October 12 and assigned this to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) after he implicitly acknowledged the decision was linked to growing domestic and international furor over the drug campaign’s horrific human toll by stating the suspension would be “better for the bleeding hearts and media.”

Duterte declared a similar one-month suspension in January, following revelations of the brutal murder of a South Korean businessman by anti-drug police. The reactivation of police anti-drug operations officially requires police to first consult with the PDEA.

But the government’s failure to hold anyone accountable for the thousands of drug war deaths make it highly unlikely that the PDEA will be able to restrain well-documented police abuses, according to Kine, adding, the resumption of police anti-drug operations was not wholly unexpected.

Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa, who fully supported Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, had criticized the suspension, saying “drug pushers are saying hallelujah.”

“Duterte may also have been emboldened by the unwillingness of either US President Donald Trump or fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders to publicly challenge the drug war slaughter during the ASEAN 2017 Summit, which the Philippines hosted in November. Those failures highlight the need for United Nations action to investigate these killings, and end the murderous police operations on urban poor communities,” Kine said. (Mindanao Examiner, with a report from the Human Rights Watch.)

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