VP Robredo wants Oplan Tokhang scrapped

Marje Pelayo   •   November 8, 2019   •   2058

A Filipino who had exhibited suspicious behavior raises his arms in front of operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during an anti-illegal drugs operation in Makati City, east of Manila, Philippines, 06 April 2017.Operatives were in pursuit of two alleged drug pushers in the area, as one female suspect was arrested and at least three other individuals were held by authorities after exhibiting suspicious behavior while the anti-illegal drugs operation was conducted. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has started her duty as the newly appointed co-chairperson of the government’s anti-drug campaign.

First in her agenda was to convene all members of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Drugs (ICAD) together with her co-chair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino.

During the press briefing, Robredo called for a replacement of the Operation Tokhang or Oplan Tokhang as a method of apprehending drug personalities.

“Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, parang naka-reach siya ng certain level of notoriety na kapag sinabing ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor,” Robredo said.

(Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, it seems to have reached a certain level of notoriety that when you say ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor.)

“It is incumbent upon us na mabago iyong kaisipian na iyon. Baka panahon na para pag-isipan natin iyong pagpalit ng isang kampanya na mas epektibo pero walang namamatay senselessly,” she added.

(It is incumbent upon us to change that notion. Maybe it’s time to think about replacing this with a more effective campaign that is without the senseless killings.)

Robredo said she wants to believe that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to hand over the anti-drug campaign implies that the Chief Executive is “open to listening to a fresh perspective about the entire campaign.”

And although she said she wants a vigorous campaign against illegal drugs, it should be within the bounds of the rule of law.

Robredo also emphasized the need to consider the problem of illegal drugs as criminality but a medical and sociological problem.

The Vice President requested to be briefed on the current status of the government’s anti-drug campaign and be provided with access to all data and documents in relation to the program.

“Gusto ko pong malaman kung saan ako magsisimula (I want to know where to start),” she said.

Despite being a staunch critic of the campaign, Robredo commended the ‘successes’ of the administration’s drug war specifically the recent haul of illegal drugs from various operations.

But Robredo expressed concern over the increasing number of drug dependents despite the efforts and resources that have been exerted by all anti-drug agencies working on the campaign.

“Why don’t we re-assess? Ano ba iyong mabubuting ginagawa? Para iyong mga effective na ginagawa ay ipagpapatuloy natin. Pero ano ba yung mga ginagawa na hindi nagbibigay sa atin ng desired results?” she said.

(Why don’t we re-assess? What are the good things being done? So that the effective ones will be continued. But let us think also of the things that we were doing that didn’t bring us our desired results.)

“Iyon ang pag-isipan natin (We should think about those things),” she said further.

After Robredo addressed the media, Aquino requested them to leave to give the Committee time to discuss important matters in relation to their duty.

The PDEA chief promised to take questions from the press alongside Robredo after the meeting.

Philippines yet to receive formal request from ICC for proof of probe into drug war deaths – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has yet to receive a formal request from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to provide concrete information that it is conducting investigations into allegations involving the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles issued the statement following reports that ICC Prosecutor Khan will ask the Philippine government to provide substantiating information regarding its probe into allegations of crime committed under its war against drugs.

“We would like to clarify that we have yet to receive a formal request with regard to this matter. That being said, we reiterate our position that the ICC has no jurisdiction to probe our campaign against illegal drugs,” Nograles said.

“Clearly, the ICC prosecutor’s request for information is an acknowledgment that alleged victims can seek redress in Philippine legal institutions because these are independent, impartial, and competent,” he added.

Moreover, Nograles said that the ICC prosecutor’s statement “validates our earlier position that the ICC is the court of last resort, one that can be utilized when a State Party is unwilling to investigate and prosecute those who violate its laws.”

“This is simply not the case in the Philippines. Our criminal justice system continues to be capable and functional, and a case in point is the signing of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation of an agreement to conduct cooperative investigations,” he said.

Nograles stressed that this serves as “evidence that a culture of impunity does not exist in our country as local institutions have demonstrated their commitment to accountability.”

Khan, in a statement posted on Tuesday, said the Duterte administration must submit concrete proof that its is investigating allegations involving its war on drugs after the ICC deferred its probe upon the request of the Philippine government.

The ICC deferred the probe after the government said that investigations on reported deaths during anti-drug operations are underway.

“Such information must consist of tangible evidence, of probative value and a sufficient degree of specificity, demonstrating that concrete and progressive investigative steps have been or are currently being undertaken,” the statement read.

Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Eduardo Malaya wrote Khan that the country’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has already referred to the National Bureau of Investigation the 52 cases it reviewed, where administrative liability was found on the part of concerned law enforcers.

Members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and the Free Legal Assistance Group have called on the ICC to resume its probe, saying the DOJ is only looking at several cases out of tens of thousands of killings allegedly linked to the drug war.

PNP, NBI to jointly probe, prosecute law enforcers’ violations in drug war ops

Robie de Guzman   •   November 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have signed an agreement for cooperation in formal investigation of all police operations relating to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

The PNP said the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the NBI was signed on Wednesday. PNP chief Police General Guillermo Eleazar and NBI officer-in-charge Eric Distor signed the agreement before the Department of Justice.

The four-page MOA serves as an authority for the two agencies “to build cases against PNP personnel who would be found violating the criminal laws in the conduct of operations against illegal drug personalities across the country.”

“The PNP and the NBI shall jointly evaluate the government’s anti-illegal drug operations, and, where necessary, determine possible criminal liability on the part of the police officers involved in these operations,” the MOA read.

“As state agencies, both parties seek to ascertain the truth regarding the allegations of human rights violations and possible criminal liability in the conduct of government’s anti-illegal drug operations,” it added.

The agreement emphasizes the commitment of the PNP and the NBI in supporting each other in terms of the following:

  • Sharing all documents, records and pieces of evidence relating to the police anti-drug operations;
  • Undertaking investigation, case build-up and the possible filing of criminal complaints against any police officer who would be found violating the laws.
  • Prepare a full and detailed report of all relevant findings and recommendations for submission to each counterpart head of agency
  • Designation of points of contact and representatives for ease of coordination

Under the Agreement, the PNP is expected to designate representatives from the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) and the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) and the NBI to name representatives from its Office of the Assistant Director for Regional Operations Service, Office of the Assistant Director for Investigation Service, Office of the Assistant Director for Intelligence Service, and the Office of the Assistant Director for Forensic Service.

The designation of the representatives must be done within 15 days after the signing of the MOA, the PNP said.

Representatives from both the PNP and the NBI will form the PNP-NBI Joint Investigation Team. Their meeting is set at least once a month.

“The signing of this Agreement is proof of the PNP’s commitment to transparency and accountability and in order to finally settle the allegations of human rights abuses that have been hounding the government’s aggressive campaign against illegal drugs since July 2016,” Eleazar said in a statement.

“Through this Agreement, we will be able to ferret out the truth and correct the wrong impression that all our operations relating to illegal drugs campaign are tainted with human rights abuse. Napakalaki ng sakripisyo ng ating kapulisan sa kampanyang ito at marami din kaming kasamahan na nagbuwis ng buhay at nasugatan sa aming mga operasyon,” he added.

For his part, Distor assured impartiality in the conduct of the investigation.

“The NBI shares the goal of the PNP to put an end to the illegal drugs problem in the country. We have been coordinating and working together to address this problem through joint operations and information sharing,” he said.

“We assure impartiality in the conduct of investigation and we are confident that this would finally address the concerns on the manner by which the government’s illegal drug operations have been undertaken and to correct what needs to be corrected in the interest of truth and justice,” he added.

At least 52 cases involving 154 police officers will be prioritized by the PNP-NBI Joint Investigation Team. Those cases were already reviewed by the DOJ and were recommended for further investigation and case build-up.

The criminal cases that may be recommended by the Joint Investigation Team are separate from the administrative cases that would be pursued by the IAS, the PNP said.

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COMELEC spox says vote buying a poll offense

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2021

COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez

MANILA, Philippines – Vote buying is an election offense “regardless of financial situation or noble intentions,” Commission on Elections (COMELEC) spokesperson James Jimenez said Wednesday.

Jimenez made the remark a day after Vice President Leni Robredo said that Filipinos should take the money being offered to them but still vote for their preferred candidate.

Robredo, a presidential aspirant and standard bearer of the opposition for the 2022 elections, on Tuesday said that Filipinos who are offered money in exchange for their vote should accept the money but still vote according to their conscience.

While vote buying is illegal, she said that individuals engaging in such act is hard to apprehend as it is not done in public and the money could now be transferred electronically.

She made the response when asked on the issue of vote buying during a forum with a group of household service workers who support her election bid.

“Lagi kong sinasabi, tanggapin niyo kasi galing sa inyo ‘yan. Pera ‘yan ng taumbayan. Pero iboto mo kung ano ang nasa konsiyensiya mo,” Robredo said.

But Jimenez countered Robredo’s statement.

“I disagree with the notion of taking the money and voting according to your conscience. Vote buying is an election offense regardless of financial situation or noble intentions,” he said.

“Di dapat ginagawa, at di dapat sina-suggest yan sa mga botante,” he added.

Under Omnibus Election Code, vote buying and vote selling are considered as election offense.

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