Palace: Duterte still ‘in full control’ of drug war

Malacañang on Tuesday, August 22 assured that President Rodrigo Duterte remains “in full control” of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s enforcement of the administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella refuted accusations that Duterte has lost control of the police amid the controversial killing spree—particularly of the recent killing of a Grade 11 student during an anti-drug operation last week.

“Malinaw naman na  (It’s very clear that) the president is in full control,” Abella told reporters.

17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos was killed during an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City on Wednesday, August 16 after allegedly pulling a gun on police officers.

A CCTV footage, however, showed Delos Santos being dragged by the police to the spot where he was killed. Witnesses also gave statements supporting the footage, adding that the police gave Delos Santos a gun and told him to run.

The teenager’s death has sparked public outrage, and various groups joined in a “Justice for Kian” rally the following Monday, August 21. Several rallyists expressed sentiments that Duterte seemed to have lost control of the police.

“I think they misread the situation. The President is very concerned that these things will be properly handled and properly managed,” Abella further said.

In a statement, United States Ambassador the Philippines Sung Kim extended his condolences to the family and friends of Delos Santos. He also joined the call for “full accountability” in the killing of the teenager.

“My condolences go out to the family and friends of Kian,” the U.S. Ambassador said in a tweet.

Malacañang earlier assured that “mistakes and illegal acts (by the police) would not be tolerated.”

“This deeply regrettable incident has triggered deep public sentiment, and challenges those in law enforcement to be wary of the reckless exercise of power and authority,” Abella said.

He added, “The President, who continues to vigorously pursue the dismantling of drug apparatus, ensures that erring enforcers will be properly investigated.”

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has begun its formal investigation into the death of Delos Santos.

The three cops involved in the operation were relieved of their post amid the investigation. They were Police Chief Insp. Amor Cerillo, commander of Police Community Precinct 7, PO3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremiah Pereda and PO1 Jerwin Cruz.

In a separate statement, the PNP asked the public to not generalize the drug war based on the death of Delos Santos.

“This is a separate incident. Huwag natin i-generalize na (Let us not generalize that) because of one incident, lahat ng (all) police operation[s] will result as same as to Kian,” PNP Spokesperson Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said.

The Philippine government’s so-called drug war has been highly criticized by the international community and various human rights groups over its alleged thousands of state-sanctioned killings and rights abuses, which in turn, had been repeatedly refuted by the Duterte administration.

Carlos noted that there has been about 1.039 million drug personalities who surrendered to the authorities since Duterte launched the campaign in July last year. He also cited the arrest of about 90,000 drug suspects “who violated the law” but were still alive and detained.

“Let us not generalize the incident involving the minor. Iba po ‘yan sa pang araw-araw na nagaganap (This is different from what is happening everyday),” the PNP official added.

On Sunday, August 20, all members of the Senate majority, except Senator Manny Pacquiao, reportedly signed a resolution seeking an investigation into the apparent abuses of the PNP in the war on drugs.

According to an Inquirer report, the senators have agreed to tap Senator Panfilo Lacson’s committee on public order  to investigate Delos Santos’ death and further “determine the accountability of the PNP in the conduct of the anti-illegal drug campaign that may have resulted in unnecessary and unjustified deaths and/or killings.”

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