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Gatchalian to PNP: Lose public trust, lose war on drugs

CAMP CRAME, QUEZON CITY, Philippines – ​The facade of the Philippine National Police HQ looms as officers stand at attention during an event where Senator Win Gatchalian was invited as a guest. Gatchalian in a statement said “the integrity of the PNP and its members must remain unsullied at all times.” File photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Sen. Win Gatchalian on Tuesday warned that the public approval of the administration’s War on Drugs will continue to nosedive if the Philippine National Police (PNP) fails to address reports of police abuses in the implementation of the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Gatchalian took to task PNP Dir. Gen. Bato Dela Rosa for his failure to keep his officers in check, urging him to “immediately launch an intensive probe” into recent allegations made against police officers.

“The endless string of public scandals concerning the questionable methods employed by police officers in waging the fight against illegal drugs is starting to take its toll on the credibility of the PNP. Public trust in the institution is fast declining, and the people are losing their faith in police officers,” Gatchalian said.

The March 2017 survey of the polling firm Social Weather Stations (SWS) had indicated an 11% drop in public satisfaction in the administration’s war on drugs. Also, 73% of the respondents expressed fears about being wrongly targeted and becoming victims of extrajudicial killings, while 44% did not believe police claims that slain suspects fought back during operations.

Last week, television video reports showed how a team from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) discovered about 12 men and women, alleged to be drug offenders, were illegally detained inside a “lock-up cell” hidden behind a bookshelf at the Police Station 1 in Tondo, Manila. Some of the detainees claimed the police were extorting money from them, with amounts ranging from P30,000 to P100,000, in exchange for their freedom. Others alleged they were beaten up with wood.

Also, an online investigative report tagged a certain PO3 Ronald Alvarez from the Manila Police Station 2 to be behind drug-related summary killings in Tondo. At least 7 Tondo residents accused Alvarez of killing Joshua Cumilang, Rex Aparri, Mario Rupillo, and Danilo Dacillo. The report also cited 20 other residents claiming that encounters in the community were actually summary executions, and accused the police of torture and harassment.

A newspaper article, on the other hand, cited the allegation of one PO1 Vincent Tacorda that he was ordered by former Catanduanes police chief Senior Supt. Jesus Martirez to kill a suspected drug pushed in Virac so that the local police group would have a “kill” record in the government’s war on drugs. Martirez is now chief of the PNP Research and Development Center in Camp Crame. The suspect survived the killing.

Against the backdrop of these numerous police controversies, Gatchalian emphasized the importance of the public perception of PNP in the success or failure of the administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

“The integrity of the PNP and its members must remain unsullied at all times. If the people lose trust in the police, we will lose the War on Drugs,” said Gatchalian.