Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said the authorities should change tactics in dealing with the narcotics problem as President Duterte’s brutal war on drugs began to lose public
“I think the tactics employed are starting to reach saturation point as far as the public is concerned. While the overall strategy is still effective, I think it’s time the (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) and the Philippine National Police [made] some adjustments to their tactical offensive,” Lacson said in a statement.
The latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that public satisfaction with Mr. Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs fell to +66 percent in the first quarter of 2017 from +77 percent in December last year.
Fear of being killed
A majority of the respondents said they were worried that they or someone they knew would be victims of extrajudicial killings.
Lacson said people had grown tired of reports about the summary executions of drug suspects.
For a change, police can start by solving vigilante killings in the war on drugs and arresting those responsible.
“The police must therefore show solutions of these DUIs (deaths under investigation) and arrests must be made in considerable degree,” he said.
The PNP, however, said it saw no need to rethink its approach to the campaign against illegal drugs.
Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said the drop in public support for the war on drugs in the SWS poll was a “challenge” for the police, but insisted there were no state-sponsored extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
“What is there to rethink? The deaths constitute 0.2 percent of the [people] involved in drugs that we’ve encountered. The 95 percent, or 1.18 million, surrendered peacefully while the rest were arrested alive,” he said.
“We don’t want them ending up dead [but] we give priority to protecting the public and also to [protecting] the lives of our policemen,” he added.
They resisted arrest
The PNP insisted that drug suspects who were killed in police operations had resisted arrest, endangering the lives of law enforcers.
PNP records show that as of April 18, 2,710 drug suspects were killed in police antinarcotics operations.
Carlos said he agreed with Lacson that police should arrest those behind the killings, but disagreed that the killings were extrajudicial.
He said that under former President Benigno Aquino III’s Administrative Order 35, extrajudicial killings refer only to the killings of journalists, activists and human rights defenders.
“This has to be explained, because if we keep on using the term [extrajudicial killing], then all murders and homicides that we’ve monitored would appear [to be extrajudicial killings],” he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the increasing body count had led to the drop in public approval of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.
She said the campaign had turned into a “national nightmare” and it would continue to lose public support as long as it continued to “create a climate of fear and impunity.”
Sen. Joel Villanueva said the Duterte administration would “not get a passing grade” until it solved the vigilante killings.
There have been more than 3,700 alleged vigilante killings—the PNP calls them deaths under investigation—in the war on drugs as of March 24.
A new Reuters report on the killings quoted two senior police officers as saying police had carried out most of the killings and they had received cash payments for executing drug suspects and planted evidence at crime scenes.
According to the report, the cash rewards for drug killings range from P20,000 for a “street level pusher and user,” to P50,000 for a member of a barangay council, P1 million for “distributors, retailers and wholesalers,” and P5 million for “drug lords.”
Carlos denied the report, saying the PNP did not have enough money to offer cash payments to officers for killing drug suspects.
Nevertheless, the PNP is investigating the “serious” allegations in the report, he said.
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