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Davao’s renewed war on drugs

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It is true, as somebody said many decades ago, that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

We’re seeing a repeat of Oplan Tokhang the Rodrigo Duterte administration implemented with bloody results from 2016 until the end of its term in mid-2022.

The violent crackdown on suspected drug traffickers and users led to an officially acknowledged death toll by the Philippine National Police of more than 6,000, but human rights groups claim the actual figure could well be between 20,000 and 30,000.

Last month, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte, son of the former president, issued a stern warning against those using illegal drugs in the city during the turnover ceremony of the new Davao City police chief: “Kung hindi kayo aalis, kung hindi kayo titigil, papatayin ko kayo.” (If you will not leave, if you will not stop, I will kill you.)

That was the same warning issued by the elder Duterte when he took office in 2016, and repeated many times during his term.

Recall that as Davao City mayor, he organized the so-called Davao Death Squad that targeted drug traffickers and other criminals for many years.

Now, he faces before the International Criminal Court a charge of crimes against humanity precisely for ordering the killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects.

Barely a week after Mayor Duterte declared his own war on drugs, seven drug personalities, two of them high-value targets at city level, have been killed in police operations.

The recent deaths are on top of 15 drug-related killings that have taken place since January, based on the monitoring group Dahas Project of the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center.

As of March 26, Davao City is a “top hotspot” for drug-related killings, according to Dahas.

Seven cops have since been relieved from their positions in connection with the city’s war on drugs. The PNP Internal Affairs Service has also started its investigation into the killings.

According to the Davao Region police office, the seven policemen have been disarmed and would be subjected to paraffin testing, adding that they must also explain why it was necessary for them to use their guns in neutralizing the drug suspects.

The Commission on Human Rights is on the right track in denouncing the Davao City killings and in issuing an order to its regional office in Davao to conduct a thorough probe of the alleged extrajudicial killings.

According to the agency, the killings constitute grave violations of human rights: “Using extrajudicial means undermines the rule of law and destroys faith in legal systems, ultimately hindering genuine efforts to address the root causes of drug-related problems in the country.”

We agree completely, and urge the Davao City government and its police force to review operational procedures to uphold due process and the rule of law in its drive to rid the city of the drug menace.


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