The rule of law in the drive on drugs » Manila Bulletin News

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In the ongoing anti-drugs campaign in the country, the “One Time Big Time” police operation in Mimaropa (Mindoro Oriental and Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan), stood out for one thing – it was carried out without a single killing.

Earlier this month, 32 suspected drug pushers and users were killed in one day in Bulacan, followed by 25 dead in Manila, then 24 in the Northern Police District covering Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela. It was in Caloocan where a 17-year-old Grade 11 student, Kian Loyd de los Santos, was killed in apparent cold blood, sparking calls for a Senate inquiry.

Kian’s killing has led to a public reaction to the killings that had come to be taken for granted. The thousands of deaths had been generally accepted by the public as statistics in a badly needed drive to rid the country of the terrible menace of drugs. Suddenly, there was a human face arising out of the mass of statistics. It was the face of a young man in his teens, who wanted to be a policeman when he grew older, who was swept up in a police dragnet which appeared to be concerned mainly with amassing numbers of dead pushers and addicts.

After Bulacan, Manila, and Camanava, Mimaropa conducted its own anti-drug operation last Saturday. At the end of the four-province drive, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, director of the Mimaropa regional police, said 222 were arrested on drug charges, including a policeman, along with 16 nabbed for illegal gambling and five for illegal logging.

No one was killed in the entire four-province operations. Either the people of Mimaropa are different from those of Bulacan, Manila, and Camanava who, the police in these localities had claimed, fought back. Or the Mimaropa police were determined to conduct an operation in accordance with standard police procedures, in accordance with law.

Or perhaps, the death of Kian de los Santos has begun to effect a change among us. President Duterte himself appears to have reacted differently to the death of one drug suspect. He had always assured the police he would support them, but this time, he said: “Let me be clear on this. I said I would protect those who are doing their duty …. You are not allowed to kill a person who is kneeling down, begging for his life. That is murder.”

The war on drugs will continue, the President declared. It may take much longer, he said, maybe the rest of his term, so massive is the problem. It may also need more resources to rehabilitate the victims of drug addiction in our country. But we must not drop to the level of a police state that has no regard for human rights and the rule of law. If we now start stressing this in the campaign against drugs and other crimes, Kian‘s death will not have been in vain.

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