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Four ways Leni can improve the drug war

/ 04:05 AM November 11, 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo has four ways to improve the drug war, now that she has accepted the offer to be the antidrug czar (or at least cochair of the interagency body overseeing it).

First, the Vice President should work to give both guns and video cameras equal status of indispensability in all drug operations. All police operatives must be provided with, and they must be obliged to bring, both gun and camera during buy-bust operations, or when they confront or apprehend drug suspects.

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The gun serves as protection for the police. The video camera serves as protection for the suspects.

The most frightening characteristic of the current drug war is the fact that more than 5,000 people have died in police buy-bust operations. The police justify these deaths by invoking the “nanlaban” defense (that the victims fought the police), but suspicion abounds that the deaths are state-sponsored summary killings.

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The police force should welcome the call for them to be equipped with video cameras, because the gadgets will erase doubts on the legality of these deaths. Even ordinary motorcycle riders have dashcams mounted on their bikes, and even urban poor residents have CCTV cameras installed in their houses, so police authorities cannot plead financial or technical excuses not to have the gadget.

Second, Robredo should formulate regulations requiring all guns supposedly recovered from “nanlaban” casualties to be inventoried and stored securely, to prevent their recycling in multiple operations. There are strong suspicions these guns are planted by rogue policemen and reused in numerous
operations, so there must be a system to prevent this highly suspected practice.

Third, Robredo should ensure a practice of making it mandatory for policemen to automatically give the families of the dead all the documents relating to the incident. One of the most coldhearted practices of policemen in the current drug war — one that engenders strong suspicions of foul play among victims’ families — is the refusal of police operatives to even furnish the families with the relevant documents such as the scene of the crime report, medico-legal report, preoperation and postoperation reports, among others.

Even butchered pigs and cows have documentation papers signed personally by the city or municipal mayor. Human casualties in police operations are treated lower than animals if their families are not even given the decency of having access to documents explaining the death of their loved ones. The documents are needed by victims’ families in order to enable them to assess for themselves if the killing was lawful, and not merely left to swallow the self-serving version of the police. It will also give the families the option to file criminal charges at any time within 20 years as the law allows.

Fourth, the Vice President should order compliance with the police manual of operations, which obligates police authorities to submit to the public prosecutor all documents relating to deaths resulting from police operations. It is not true that there’s a presumption of regularity when death
occurs in the hands of policemen. Death is never an ordinary outcome of a police operation. On the contrary, there is a presumption of irregularity in such deaths, which is why policemen are required by their own manual to explain the extreme necessity of any death they cause in an independent investigation where they are treated as respondents by prosecutors.

If their consistent trumpeting of the lawful nature of the killings is true, then police authorities have nothing to fear. But claims of bravery in the face of a hostile gun crumble and become degraded as fake news if policemen exhibit fear at mere video cameras, documents and the prospect of investigations.

The campaign against illegal drugs must have two missions—to rid society of the drug scourge, and to protect society from police abuses in the conduct of the campaign. The Duterte administration has waged a drug war trying to pursue only the first mission, while ignoring the second one. Robredo is coming on board to infuse the drug campaign with the second mission.

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TAGS: drug war, Flea Market of Ideas, Joel Butuyan, leni robredo
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