MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte's first order to his new national police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas is to intensify the anti-drug campaign, the general said Wednesday, even as activists raised the specter of unchecked human rights abuses under his watch.
“Ang pinakauna niya po talagang instruction ay ipagpatuloy, paigtingin at lakasan ang kampanya laban sa ilegal na droga,” Sinas said in a Laging Handa briefing.
(His very first instruction is to continue, intesify, strengthen the campaign against illegal drugs.)
“At dapat talagang gawin namin iyong tungkulin namin para mabawasan o mahinto ang pagkalat ng mga ilegal na droga sa iba’t ibang parte ng Pilipinas. Pinapaigting niya lalo na iyong high-value targets," he said.
(And we should really do our duty to curb or stop the spread of illegal drugs in various parts of the Philippines. The President wants to boost drug sweeps, especially for high-value targets.)
Duterte recently said around 2 in 100 Filipinos were still addicted to illicit drugs, some 4 years into his controversial anti-narcotics drive that has left thousands dead.
Sinas' appointment had caused a stir on social media, where users recalled how as Manila police chief he had celebrated his birthday in May with dozens of senior officers at a party or mañanita that defied strict coronavirus lockdown rules.
He is the latest commander to rise to the top post under Duterte having led operations in bloody hotspots of his war on drugs, during which thousands of urban poor have been killed, many in mysterious circumstances.
Rights groups accuse police of executing suspected dealers. Police say those killed in their operations were legitimate targets who resisted arrest.
"What lies ahead for the Filipino people with Sinas' appointment is a bloody party of human rights violations," said Cristina Palabay of rights group, Karapatan.
"This fascist regime is gearing up for an intensified crackdown on dissent and assault on human rights."
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte valued Sinas’ track record and "big" contribution to drug war. Asked about his suitability, Roque said Duterte need not explain his appointments.
A United Nations report in June said tens of thousands of people may have been killed in the drug war with "near impunity" by police and incitement to violence by top officials. The government rejected that as baseless.
Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for Human Rights Watch, said drugs killings were rampant in the central region under Sinas and his appointment did not bode well for human rights.
"He seems very loyal to Duterte and it looks like he's going to do what Duterte would ask him to do," he said.
Sinas said he would also focus on curbing corruption in the PNP and extremism.
— With a report from Reuters