By Martin Sadongdong
The statement of President Duterte during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the anti-illegal drugs campaign will be as relentless and chilling like the day it began was intended to warn drug suspects to stop or face the “certainty of punishment” from the Philippine National Police (PNP), a top official bared on Wednesday.
Senior Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr., PNP spokesperson, said that President Duterte only meant to send a chilling effect to all drug suspects who continue to commit illegal activities. He said it does not automatically mean that the drug war will be bloody again.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be bloody. The chilling effect that we want to [send] is that there will be certainty of punishment. These drug pushers will be horrified and frightened [with] our intensified campaign against illegal drugs,” Durana said.
Durana then described the drug suspects as “merchants of death,” a thing he said most critics fail to realize.
“This is one thing that we fail to realize: That these pushers they are merchants of death. Mangangalakal ng kamatayan. They destroy lives. They ruin relationships. They make families dysfunctional. Grabe ‘yung salot na idinudulot ng mga mangangalakal ng kamatayan na ito (The problems that these merchants of death cause is tremendous),” he emphasized.
With President Duterte’s directive to intensify the campaign against illegal drugs, Durana said the public should expect that they will heed such order. In fact, he said the national oversight committee at Camp Crame is studying to improve their current strategy.
“It may mean increase in the number of arrests it may mean increase in number of arrests and neutralization of high-value targets (HVTs),” he noted.
He then appealed to the government’s critics to help them in dealing with the illegal drugs problems by rehabilitating the drug surrenderers.
“At the same time, these intensified campaign will also generate some critics but we are appealing to the critics that they don’t just criticize. Help the government in the scourge that we are experiencing right now in our problems on illegal drugs. They should help us in rehabilitating drug users,” he said.
President Duterte tackled the seemingly increasing problem of illegal drugs in the country as his opening statement during his third SONA last Monday.
“Let me begin by putting it bluntly: The war against illegal drugs is far from over. Where before, the war resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs worth millions of pesos. Today, they run [into] billions in peso value,” he said.
“This is why the illegal drugs war will not be sidelined. Instead, it will be as relentless and chilling, if you will, as on the day it began,” he added.
Duterte then criticized the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by saying: “Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives.”
However, CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said that human rights and human lives can never be separated, and in fact, the two only complement each other.
From July 1, 2016 to July 22, 2018, at least 4,655 drug suspects have already been killed in the administrations war on drugs, according to records from the PNP.
Meanwhile, the PNP have recorded some 1.2 million drug surrenderers where about 200,000 of them — roughly 17 percent — have been subjected to recovery and wellness programs of the PNP, the Church, various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups in the country.