MANILA - Law enforcement agencies involved in the anti-drug campaign said Tuesday there was no evidence that drug syndicates were using human rights groups to discredit the government.
Officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) made the clarification in light of comments from two senior government officials that human rights groups critical of the administration's anti-drug campaign may have become “unwitting tools” of drug lords aiming to stoke destabilization.
PDEA said there is no proof yet to claims publicly made by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
“That is still subject of further investigation by all law enforcement agencies,” PDEA spokesperson Director Derrick Carreon said in a Palace press briefing.
PNP Spokesperson Chief Supt. John Bulalacao said police also have no evidence yet linking drug lords to human rights groups.
Carreon, nonetheless, said Roque and Cayetano’s claims may be true after all “seeing the trend of how they (human rights groups) attack the anti-drug campaign.”
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 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.
Karapatan also slammed the allegation, saying it was "dangerous" and put the lives of human rights advocates on the line.
4,075 DRUG SUSPECTS KILLED
At least 4,075 drug suspects have been killed in presumed legitimate anti-drug operations since Duterte assumed office in July 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 allegations of human rights groups that numerous violations were being committed in the drug war, saying police were merely carrying out their duties.
Carreon said the PDEA has been sensitive to criticism about the drug war and has made adjustments on the conduct of anti-narcotics operations.
“As far as PDEA is concerned, we have made adjustments on the ground in order that we would not be criticized negatively in regard to the conduct of such operations,” he said.
The PNP, for a while put in the backseat following teen deaths in suspicious operations last year, had revised guidelines for the relaunch of its controversial house-to-house "knock and plead" campaign "Oplan Tokhang."