Kababayans react to Fil-Am leaders’ challenge to President Rodrigo Duterte 

Filipino-American human rights advocates and community leaders wrote a letter to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte citing their concerns about the growing number of deaths in the hands of law enforcers in Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
They cited Amnesty International, which recently published reports about “the extrajudicial killings of over 7,000 persons suspected of dealing in illegal drugs or being simply drug addicts since you took office, with a third of these credibly attributed to actions by the PNP and/or state actors.”
The letter also noted the “U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Human Rights Report also stated that ‘police and unknown vigilantes have killed more than 6,000 suspected drug dealers and users’ in the Philippines between July and December 2016, a period during which extrajudicial killings ‘increased sharply’ and allegedly undertaken by vigilantes, security forces, and insurgents.”
The Fil-Am leaders’ letter asked Duterte:
• To condemn all extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings and call on law enforcement officials to abide strictly by international law and standards on the use of force;
• To ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all reports of use of lethal force by the police, extrajudicial executions, and other unlawful killings;
• To ensure that those responsible are brought to justice through a fair trial process;
• To provide programs to rehabilitate drug addicts which is a proven way to stem illegal drug trafficking and usage.
ANOTHER group of Fil-Am community leaders — U.S. Pinoys for Real Change in the Philippines (USPRCP) — responded and requested to present their perspective on the issue.
From Atty. Arnedo Valera, chairman of the USPRCP:
“These human right groups continue to mischaracterize the Philippine drug war. Once again, there [are] no state-sanctioned killings in this drug war. The concept of EJKs has been abused by political propagandist and enemies of this administration and the negative campaign continues to be re-echoed by human rights groups in the U.S.
These are the real numbers: 
1. There are 79,193 Anti-drug operations conducted from July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017;
2. More than 118,000 drug personalities have been arrested from July 1, 2016, November 27, 2017.
3. There are now more than 1.3 million drug addicts and surrenderees from July 1, 2016 to July 26, 2017;
AS of September 2017, more than 16,000 drug dependents are undergoing DOH drug rehabilitation programs.
More than 2,200 drug dependents have already completed DOH drug rehabilitation program
2, 236 drug dependents already completed DOH drug rehabilitation program
and more than 14,000 drug surrenderees received livelihood and skills training by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
4. 3,967 drug personalities who died in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to November 27, 2017;
5. More than 16,000 Homicide cases under investigation from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017
6. More than 4,700 barangays declared drug-free as of November 27, 2017.
P18.92 billion value of seized illegal drugs including drug paraphernalia from July 1, 2016 to November, 27, 2017;
Source (PDEA, PNP, NBI and the Bureau of Customs)
Similar to the U.S., the drug problem in the Philippines is an epidemic where a strict law enforcement policy and rehabilitation/treatment policies must be combined to save the country from becoming a narco-state and ensure hope for the future of the young generation.  “Lumping and attributing more than 9 to 10,000 nationwide killings, homicide, murders into one category and branding them as extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the government, its police and military, is not only unfounded and baseless but shows ignorance of basic human rights law.
The Philippines is facing two drug wars. First, the war between the government vs. drug lords, drug cartels, low-level drug offenders, police scalawags and corrupt politicians engaged in drug trafficking. These are the drug-related legitimate operations that have caused more than 3,000 deaths.
The second war is the war between and among drug carters vs. drug cartel, drug lords, police scalawags vigilantes and corrupt politicians which have caused thousands of undetermined deaths and remains under active investigation. These non-state actors, even prior to President Duterte’s assumption of office, have been killing and eliminating each other by the thousands to silence and or cover up and protect their multi-billion international drug trade. 
When you blame the president, our police and our military for all the killings nationwide, you are not only unfairly presuming that our government and police are all killers who are out there with orders to kill anyone involved in drugs but you are also destroying the basic notion of accountability of non-state actors in the second face of the current Philippine drug war.
That is why, it is in the height of political hypocrisy for a U.S. congressional committee to conduct a hearing of a sovereign country whose political leader is enjoying more than 82 percent popularity and has adopted a bold, decisive and strict enforcement of its domestic laws to combat and eradicate the drug problem nationwide under the rule of law and within the role of law.
In our own backyard, it is important to underscore what U.S Atty. General Jeff Sessions said in his address to the assembly of the Drug Abuse Assistance Resistance Education (DARE), last July 11, 2017 as follows: ‘Drug abuse has become an epidemic in our country today. In 2016, it has claimed more than 62,000 lives lost to drug overdose (1,200 lives lost every week) He noted that drug abuse is not only a concern about treatment but law enforcement prevention. He also acknowledges that drug trafficking is an inherently violent business, where there is a need for a strict enforcement policy, which the US currently lacks.’
The United States has been engaged in the drug war for the last decades. In Latin America, it adopted a policy of prohibition of targeting, manufacturers, suppliers, drug cartels and corrupt police, politicians including heads of states involved in massive drug trafficking conspiracy.  The U.S. has 3 trillion dollars budget every year. Almost 2 billion dollars every month. In Mexico alone, it has caused more than 185,000 killings in so-called legitimate drug war operations. Last June 2017, Mexico has 2,000 deaths in drug-related police legitimate operations. Nobody, including these human rights groups you are mentioning, is raising the issue of extrajudicial killings.
If you want to help the Philippine government, and our nation and build a stronger generation of the young, then you must support the Philippine drug war, to say the least and at the same exercise your right to demand accountability and give your constructive criticisms to strengthen our law enforcement agencies and not to weaken them simply because you do not like President Duterte. Otherwise, you are becoming alter-egos of the political opposition and unwittingly becoming an enabler for the drug cartels, drug lords, police scalawags, vigilantes and corrupt politicians.”

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

Gel Santos Relos
Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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