Palace: Drug lords may be using rights groups vs government

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2018 12:19 PM | Updated as of Dec 23 2018 05:26 PM

MANILA - (UPDATE) Malacañang on Monday said it is not discounting the possibility that drug lords may be using human rights groups to destabilize the government.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque noted that the multibillion-peso narcotics industry has been suffering since the launch of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, citing the surrender of more than a million drug users, arrest of tens of thousands of drug suspects, and seizure of billions worth of illegal drugs and manufacturing equipment.

“The attacks against the President’s war on drugs have been vicious and non-stop. We, therefore, do not discount the possibility that some human rights groups have become unwitting tools of drug lords to hinder the strides made by the administration,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“To continue to do and thrive in the drug business, these drug lords can easily use their drug money to fund destabilization efforts against the government.”

Roque’s statement reflects an earlier pronouncement from Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano that some non-government organizations have become unwitting tools by drug lords to discredit the drug war.

Nearly 4,000 drug suspects have been killed in presumed- legitimate drug operations since Duterte assumed office in mid-2016. Human rights groups, however, believe this number is understated as it does not include those killed by so-called vigilantes, some of whom were alleged to be state-sponsored.

Duterte and senior government officials have repeatedly dismissed the allegations of human rights groups that numerous violations were being committed in the drug war, saying the police were merely carrying out their duties.

Cayetano and Roque did not mention any human rights group, but international non-government organizations advocating human rights such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been among the most vocal critics of the anti-drug campaign. 

HRW, nonetheless, responded to Roque and Cayetano’s allegations, calling them “shockingly dangerous and shameful.”

“Are they trying to have death squads target human rights activists? Cayetano and Roque provide no evidence. They should withdraw their comments immediately,” said HRW Asia Director Brad Adams in a statement.