“My mouth is not the problem,” President Duterte declared in a speech before policemen at Camp Vicente Alagar in Cagayan de Oro last Thursday night (September 22).
But his mouth is a source of much confusion about the war on drugs.
The following day, on Friday, September 23, in addressing police officers and personnel of the Region 12 police office in Tambler, General Santos City, DU30 also declared that the number of drug addicts in the country will soar from 3.7 million to four million by the end of the month, bringing the Philippines at par with Indonesia. (3.7 million is unreal in the light of official statistics; 4 million is surreal.)
The following day, Saturday, September 24, the Philippine National Police issued an update on the war on drugs, that sought to show that the war is progressing fairly well.
PNP report on drug war
The PNP reported the following:
1. A total of 1,216 drug suspects have been killed from July 1 to September 24.
During the same period, 19,935 anti-drugs operations were conducted under “Oplan Double Barrel,” resulting in the arrest of 18,873 suspects. Under Oplan Double Barrel, the PNP targets both “big-time” and “small-time” drug dealers.
2. Over 1.2 million houses nationwide have been visited by the police in its “Oplan Tokhang” operation against illegal drugs. Under Oplan Tokhang, the police visit the houses of suspected drug personalities and urge them to stop dealing in drugs.
In the 1,217,546 house visits, there have been 721,067 surrenderers.
This figure comprises 53,499 suspected drug pushers and 667,568 drug users.
3. A total of 18,814 operations have also been conducted that resulted in the deaths of 1,167 drug suspects and the arrest of 18,064 others.
4. The PNP is investigating 1,651 cases of deaths, including those found on the street with cardboard signs stating that the person was a pusher or user.
Of the 1,960 incidents that happened since July 1, a total of 309 cases have been filed, 196 of which were considered solved as the suspect has been arrested while the suspects are still at large in 113 other cases.
5. The PNP seeks to have the estimated 1.8 million drug suspects in the country surrender to authorities during the first six months of the Duterte administration.
Significantly, the PNP is operating with the estimate of 1.8 million drug users that the Dangerous Drugs Board ( DDB) has officially provided. It has not adopted the 3.7 million estimate supplied by President Duterte in his announcement of the anti-drug campaign. It did not comment on the President’s projection that the number will reach 4 million by the end of the month.
Summarizing the numbers in the PNP update, there has been 2,883 casualties in the drug war: 1,216 killed in police operations, and 1,651 killed in incidents that have been placed under police investigation.
This figure approximates the 3,000 deaths that have been reported by local and foreign media.
I welcome the PNP report because it brings perspective to the drug war, and lifts it from the contrasting narratives of widespread human rights abuses and summary killings, and of the country becoming “a narco-state.”
Human rights abuses need proof
The charge of human rights abuses, or state-sponsored killings, must be made or proved on a case-by-case basis, not in a summary manner.
Human Rights Watch and the UN cannot make that case based on scattered statemens of President Duterte. In fact, as the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has documented, the President has not issued an executive order covering the drug war.
Sen, Paniflo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order, contends that there is no proof of state-sponsored killings in the drug war.
But he concedes that there is need for the Senate inquiry to continue. “Killings are really happening and we really have to find out if they were/are extrajudicial or not,” he said.
DU30’s invitation to the UN and European Commission to probe the drug war, if accepted, will help in this regard.
Human-rightism and international law
The French gave the world its first tablet on human rights with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen by France’s National Constituent Assembly in August 1789. The Declaration inspired in large part the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Today, it is also the French who are leading the way in criticizing the claims of the human rights movement.
As an assist to our government in making its case before the international community, I call attention to a celebrated lecture by French international law professor Alain Pellet, that was delivered on July 18, 2000.
He entitled his lecture, “Human-rightism and international law” (the lecture can be accessed online, just google the title).
Pellet is partly credited with coining the term “Human-rightism” to denote the human rights movement in general.
He opened his lecture in this manner: “What is this “human rightism” which has already achieved some measure of notoriety?…
“To my mind, the term is a relatively neutral one; it was simply intended to characterize the state of mind of human rights activists, for whom I have the greatest admiration, while sounding a note of caution against the confusion of categories: law, on the one hand, human rights ideology, on the other….
“While 1 believe that international protection of human rights is a fine cause and, for our present purposes, an essential ingredient of contemporary international law, I consider at the same time that human rights activism has no place in international law scholarship…
“Human rights lawyers are notoriously wishful thinkers.”
He then shifts to the subject of state sovereignty and human rights.
“We should be under no delusion…
The basic responsibility for the enforcement of human rights lies primarily with State action since the organs of State are responsible for the day-to-day application of human rights norms, even when such norms are defined internationally. In this area as in virtually all others, the State has the last word.
Responding to one professor who expressed irritation with the fact that “State sovereignty aspires to assert itself against the sovereignty of the law,” Pellet declared: “Sovereignty is a fact of life and one has no choice, at least as a jurist, but to grin and bear it. Indeed one may perhaps go a step further and argue that sovereignty and law, far from being incompatible, are an inseparable pair. Sovereignty represents power made subject to law and as such constitutes both the basis and the outer limit of the authority of the State.”
Facts are better than expletives
It was reckless and unnecessary for President Duterte to challenge UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the officials of the European Commission to a debate on the drug war and human rights.
It was enough for him to open the drug campaign to international scrutiny.
Expletives will get you nowhere in a debate.
Facts are better weapons to bring to the fray.