Drugs board chief denies condoning EJKs

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 05 2017 04:44 PM | Updated as of May 05 2017 04:52 PM

But has no answer when asked about the results into official drug-related probes 

MANILA – The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) on Friday denied that they condone extrajudicial killings, and stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte has made it clear that the Philippines still adheres to the rule of law, contrary to accusations by rights advocates.

In a speech during a human rights forum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, Secretary Benjamin Reyes of the DDB said that Duterte reminds law enforcers to follow the rules of engagement. However, he also said they should defend themselves if the situation calls for it.

Reyes also rebuked the media for taking the president's "jokes" seriously, especially when Duterte talks about his desire to "kill" and get rid of drug addicts.

"He will never condone illegal activities. With other countries during the ASEAN [Summit], he reiterated last Saturday that the Philippines is still ruled by law…Our position is that we do not condone extrajudicial killings. That is why we investigate all of these things," he said.

NO ANSWER 

However, Reyes had no answer when asked by Ateneo Human Rights Executive Director Arpee Santiago on the results of government's investigation on the deaths of at least 2,000 individuals in drug operations around the country.

"That's a difficult question to answer, it will take so much resources, but we are exhausting all means to look into these killings," Reyes said.

He also said that they will operate using funds approved during the Aquino administration until 2018, and reassured the public that the anti-drug campaign is a holistic approach, as prescribed by international laws and standards.

The government’s drug campaign, Reyes said, is not limited to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the police, who are in charge of enforcing existing laws.

The DDB admitted that they need the help of local governments and the public to ensure success in the drug war.

"In some of the LGUs we visited, unfortunately despite the guidelines, it is not being followed. We have observed some enforcement agents who are not aware that a board regulation exists" he said.

"There are rules in engaging individuals, there are established procedures, if you see these rules are not followed, then report it. We will do our best to look into these situations."

Reyes was one of the guests and speakers in a human rights forum in UP Diliman, which was also attended by Agnes Callamard, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.