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Duterte’s war on drugs puts spotlight on police brutality

Like a lot of Filipinos, I fully support President Rodrigo Duterte‘s strong initiative to go after drug syndicates and hardened criminals in the Philippines. However, I am troubled by three recent developments in the escalated War on Drugs:

1) The daily cycle of news reports about suspected criminals being shot dead while under police custody because they tried to refuse to be subdued (“nanlaban“) or because they attempted to grab the gun of the officers assigned to them (“nang-agaw ng baril“) is already laughable. It requires a suspension of disbelief.

I know that many Filipinos cheer the demise of these people, but it must not be forgotten that they also deserve due process under the law. As Section 14, Article III of the 1987 Constitution says, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.”

war on drugs in the philippines duterte

President Duterte’s war on drugs has resulted in a spike in the number of killings of suspected drug pushers nationwide. (Photo credits: Reuters/Czar Dancel)

2) There had also been many reports of police officers resorting to violence in pursuing their targets. It must be kept in mind that according to the Revised Philippine National Police Operational Procedures (published in December 2013), “the excessive use of force during police operation is prohibited.”

It added that in the event of a confrontation with an armed offender, police officers can use necessary and reasonable force to overcome the resistance put up by the offender, subdue the clear and imminent danger posed by him, or to justify the force/act under the principles of self-defense, defense of relative, or defense of stranger. Did the police observe that protocol in the video below?

3) To a great extent, I am also concerned about the massive number of self-proclaimed drug pushers and users nationwide who decided to surrender to the authorities.

Have they been made aware of their Constitutional right against self-incrimination? And also, what happens next after they surrender? Section 17, Article III of the 1987 Constitution which reads: “No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.”

In a report published last August 2, United States-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch noted that fear of being killed by law enforcers or vigilante-style killers has prompted these surrenders – a condition which in turn is pushing detention facilities to go beyond their maximum capacity.

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