Drug war death toll since December, proof of Duterte regime’s continuing murder spree

“Straight from the horse’s mouth, the Philippine National Police admitted that since the resumed involvement of police forces in drug war operations, the death toll has again started to rise. Though the PNP did try to backpedal with another pronouncement stating that since the relaunch of Oplan Tokhang, the campaign has been ‘bloodless’, the inconsistency in both statements are typical follies of a discredited institution which desperately tries to salvage its unredeemable reputation from the muck,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the recent statement of PNP Deputy Spokesperson Supt. Vimilee Madrid on February 9, 2018.
 
In a span of almost three months after the PNP’s return as the main implementor of the drug war campaign on December 5, 2017, 53 drug suspects have already died in police operations, according to Madrid. He reasoned that those killed “most probably” resisted arrest after confrontation with operatives. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) temporarily assumed leadership of anti-drug operations following criticisms against the conduct of the campaign. 

However, Madrid also added that since the relaunch of Oplan Tokhang last January 29, 2018, the campaign has yet to have any casualties recorded. The Deputy Spokesperson asserted that the campaign has remained ‘bloodless’.

The Karapatan secretary general added that “Madrid and the PNP want to impress that the relaunch of Oplan Tokhang is a success, especially after superficial make-overs. The reality on the ground, supported by Madrid’s own words, is that the involvement of the PNP remains a primary factor in why this “war” outrightly violates human rights - because its implementers and proponents are among the top human rights violators in the country.”

Karapatan has consistently questioned the effectivity of the said campaign in eliminating the use and sale of illegal drugs in the country. Duterte himself made a pronouncement that his earlier ultimatum of ending the drug trade in the country was a “nightmare” and a “fiasco”, reasoning that he was yet to grasp the magnitude of the problem.

Palabay emphasized that “the magnitude of the problem reveals a multifaceted issue that cannot be merely solved by transferring leadership roles from the PNP to the PDEA, and back to the PNP again, particularly because the objectives and framework of this anti-people drug campaign remain unchanged.”

“Duterte’s war on drugs is a futile militarist solution to the problems of criminality and the illicit drugs trade. It does not address the socioeconomic causes of why poor communities turn to selling narcotics for petty cash. Not only has this campaign exposed police brutality and impunity, it has also highlighted the double standard accorded to alleged drug peddlers – with the poor immediately met with bullets while the rich are provided the “benefit of the doubt” and the right to due process,” ended Palabay.