PNP chief as­sures VP of rule of law

‘UN probe? We should solve our own prob­lems’

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By HE­LEN FLORES

Now at the helm of the anti-drug cam­paign, Vice Pres­i­dent Leni Ro­bredo has re­ceived as­sur­ance from the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP) that all op­er­a­tions against drug of­fend­ers would be car­ried out “in ac­cor­dance with the rule of law.”

“Ear­lier to­day, I was as­sured by the OIC (of­fi­cer in charge) PNP chief that all op­er­a­tions will be in ac­cor­dance with the rule of law,” Ro­bredo said at a press con­fer­ence, re­fer­ring to Lt. Gen. Archie Fran­cisco Gam­boa, af­ter pre­sid­ing over her first meet­ing with the mem­bers of the In­ter-Agency Com­mit­tee on Anti-Il­le­gal Drugs (ICAD).

Re­ply­ing to a ques­tion, Ro­bredo also made it clear there’s no need for the United Na­tions to in­ves­ti­gate al­leged cases of abuse in anti-drug op­er­a­tions.

“I have said this time and again, that I feel that our prob­lem should first be solved in­ter­nally,” Ro­bredo said.

“If there’s noth­ing to hide, then what are we care­ful for? But you know, I would rather that we take care of what­ever we have to take care of,” she added.

Among those who at­tended the meet­ing at the Que­zon City Re­cep­tion House yesterday af­ter­noon aside from Gam­boa were In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ed­uardo Año, Trade Sec­re­tary Ra­mon Lopez, Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA) di­rec­tor-gen­eral Aaron Aquino, Bureau of Correction­s di­rec­tor-gen­eral Ger­ald Ban­tag and Dan­ger­ous Drugs Board chair Catal­ino Cuy.

The Vice Pres­i­dent said she lis­tened to up­dates from the five clus­ters un­der the ICAD dur­ing the closed-door meet­ing, which lasted for two and a half hours.

The meet­ing was held two days af­ter Ro­bredo ac­cepted her ap­point­ment as co-chair­per­son of the ICAD, along with Aquino.

“This af­ter­noon was re­ally a lis­ten­ing ex­er­cise for me. I asked for a brief­ing from the dif­fer­ent agen­cies,” she said.

“What we agreed upon af­ter to­day was that I will be

hold­ing small meet­ings ei­ther with the clus­ters or with the dif­fer­ent agen­cies (to dis­cuss) my con­cerns, I don’t want to be­la­bor ev­ery­one with all my is­sues,” Ro­bredo said.

The Vice Pres­i­dent also pro­posed ad­di­tional met­rics in de­ter­min­ing the suc­cess of the drug war and to make “quan­tifi­able and re­al­is­tic” tar­gets “time-bound.”

In her open­ing speech, the Vice Pres­i­dent called on the ICAD mem­ber-agen­cies to rethink its strate­gies to end the “sense­less killings” in the war against il­le­gal nar­cotics.

“Be­cause of the many sense­less killings that ac­com­pa­nied po­lice op­er­a­tion, it has reached a cer­tain level of no­to­ri­ety that when you say tokhang, it is a war against the poor,” Ro­bredo said.

Aquino, who joined Ro­bredo at the press con­fer­ence, chal­lenged her to join in the po­lice’s ac­tual il­le­gal drug op­er­a­tions to see for her­self if there are re­ally lapses on the part of the law en­forcers.

“Maybe ma’am I could ask you to join us in one of the op­er­a­tions. I will also be there to­gether with you from the plan­ning stage, dur­ing the con­duct of op­er­a­tion and af­ter the con­duct of op­er­a­tion,” the PDEA chief told Ro­bredo.

“That is my chal­lenge to you. At least in that way you will be able to see whether there are lapses or de­fects on the part of our law en­forcers dur­ing op­er­a­tions,” he said.

Ro­bredo replied to Aquino, “Maram­ing sala­mat. Gus­tong gusto ko yan (Thank you, I like that).”

“Yesterday, I wrote a let­ter to Mala­cañang ask­ing the Pres­i­dent for the guid­ance, spe­cific func­tions by our cochair VP Leni,” he said, apol­o­giz­ing to Ro­bredo for mak­ing such a move.

“Sorry, I did this with­out mal­ice ma’am, I’m just con­fused with her po­si­tion as co-chair. How she could have a Cab­i­net post if she is just a co-chair,” Aquino said.

Ro­bredo said she plans to dig into the de­tails of the crack­down, as she ex­pressed be­lief any mis­con­duct should be con­fronted “in­ter­nally.”

This was Ro­bredo’s re­sponse when asked by a for­eign jour­nal­ist whether she main­tains her ear­lier state­ment fa­vor­ing a UN probe on Duterte’s drug war.

“If I was al­ready of the im­pres­sion af­ter go­ing around, af­ter meet­ing with the dif­fer­ent clus­ters, af­ter that they have the in­for­ma­tion that they need to have, if I be­lieve that the gov­ern­ment is not do­ing any­thing to pun­ish who­ever needs to be pun­ished or to put to justice what­ever needs to be put to justice, then I don’t have any prob­lems with invit­ing them (UN hu­man rights ex­perts) over,” she said.

“Now in­stead of crit­i­ciz­ing the Pres­i­dent, she’s now in charge – and she will be able to see bet­ter now how hard the job of the Pres­i­dent is. The Vice Pres­i­dent said she doesn’t want the in­no­cents to get harmed. The Pres­i­dent and I don’t want it ei­ther,” Sen. Christophe­r “Bong” Go said.

In what could be the first ma­jor drug case to con­front ICAD un­der Ro­bredo, the Bureau Of Cus­toms (BOC) and the PDEA yesterday seized six ki­los of shabu worth some P40.8 mil­lion at the Ni­noy Aquino In­ter­na­tional Air­port Ter­mi­nal 3 from a Filip­ina worker re­turn­ing from Siem Reap, Cam­bo­dia.

Cus­toms NAIA district col­lec­tor Mimel Talu­san iden­ti­fied the pas­sen­ger as 28-year-old Ru­zol Marie Guillermo from Marik­ina City. She ar­rived on Cebu Pa­cific flight 5J 258 at around 4 a.m. yesterday.

Ear­lier yesterday, Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion Po­lice Of­fice (NCRPO) chief Brig. Gen. De­bold Si­nas said Ro­bredo would be al­lowed to join anti-drug op­er­a­tions in Metro Manila if she wishes to – and if her safety is guar­an­teed.

“Why not if she’s avail­able, we will. But of course she is the Vice Pres­i­dent and her se­cu­rity is im­por­tant. Her se­cu­rity de­tails might not al­low her to join us,” he said.

On Ro­bredo’s dec­la­ra­tion that there would zero killings in the drug cam­paign with her at the helm, Si­nas said po­lice­men are just as much averse to en­gag­ing drug of­fend­ers in gun­fights.

“We also don’t en­gage in gun­fight­ing. But when they shoot at us first, we have to de­fend our­selves,” he said.

Also yesterday, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said it has never been the pol­icy of the po­lice force to kill drug of­fend­ers.

“It’s not in our pol­icy to have peo­ple killed in the an­tidrug cam­paign,” Banac said in Filipino.

Banac gave the as­sur­ance in re­ac­tion to Ro­bredo’s call for an end to what she de­scribed as sense­less killings in the an­tidrug cam­paign.

Ac­cord­ing to Banac, po­lice of­fi­cers will only use force if drug sus­pects re­sist ar­rest or if they fight back.

The PNP ear­lier said at least 6,800 sus­pected drug push­ers and users have been killed in al­leged shootout with law en­forcers since Pres­i­dent Duterte as­sumed of­fice in July 2016.

De­tained Sen. Leila de Lima has ex­pressed sup­port for Ro­bredo’s de­ci­sion to ac­cept Duterte’s job of­fer.

“Now the ball is in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s court. As VP Leni ac­cepted the role of­fered to her, the Pres­i­dent and his un­der­lings need to fall in line and give the VP all the help that she needs to suc­ceed,” she said in a state­ment.

Ro­bredo also re­ceived a mes­sage of con­grat­u­la­tions from the US em­bassy. “We look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to work to­gether as #Friend­sPart­ner­sAl­lies to sup­port Philip­pine gov­ern­ment drug de­mand re­duc­tion ef­forts,” Am­bas­sador Sung Kim said on Twit­ter.

RUDY SAN­TOS

Cus­toms of­fi­cials ex­am­ine six ki­los of shabu brought to the coun­try by a Filip­ina pas­sen­ger from Cam­bo­dia worth P40.8 mil­lion yesterday.

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