Solon wants CHR reps in police ops vs drug suspects

August 14, 2022 People's Tonight 244 views

A LAWMAKER has introduced a bill mandating the presence of representatives from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in all police operations against suspected drug traffickers, in a bid to prevent human rights violations in the government’s anti-drug campaign.

House Bill (HB) 1011 filed by House Deputy Minority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera aims to create an inter-agency task force (IATF) for the purpose of safely embedding CHR agents within the anti-drug operations conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“This aims to ensure the protection of human rights of drug suspects, as well ensuring that police officers conduct themselves in a proper manner so as not to subject themselves to situations that would have them liable for violations of human rights,” Herrera pointed out.

“CHR agents will be tasked to properly document police activities during anti-drug operations, for the mutual protection of the accused personalities and the police officers, and to ensure that the anti-drug war adheres to the Philippines’ obligations on the protection of human rights,” she added.

She said the bill is in response to human rights concerns raised by local and international groups over the “war on drugs” waged by former President Rodrigo Duterte.

At the height of the Duterte administration’s drug war from July to September 2016, Herrera noted that 700,000 drug users and pushers surrendered, and 3,295 drug suspects killed. Of those killed, she said that a total of 1,167 drug personalities died in police operations.

Herrera lamented that the rate at which suspected drug personalities were killed as a result of legitimate police operations had drawn the interest and rebuke of the international community, with the United Nations and some countries urging the Philippine government to ensure that the human rights of these drug suspects are protected.

“While we welcome the expedient steps the Duterte administration took against the scourge of drugs, the issue of human rights has been a continuously raised topic,” Herrera said.

“An all-too commonly heard police statement is that the drug personality fought back, forcing our police officers to defend themselves,” she added.

At the same time, the veteran lawmaker made it clear that her bill also aims to protect police officers, who are in the forefront of the war against illegal narcotics.

“We also understand and commend our courageous police officials of the PNP, who are fighting a difficult war,” Herrera said. “Least of all their worries should be any threat of prosecution for offenses of human rights during anti-drug operations.”

Herrera said the CHR and PNP should be considered “partners in the common endeavor of combating illegal drugs and maintaining the protection and sanctity of human rights.”

“We need to have a national anti-drug campaign that values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights,” Herrera stressed.

Under the bill, the CHR Chairman shall serve as chair of the IATF, with the PNP Director General as vice chair, and the Secretaries of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice, the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Solicitor General as members.

The IATF shall provide a joint report detailing the conduct of anti-drug operations and the actions aimed at the protection of human rights during such operations. This report shall be submitted to the President and Congress once each year.

The IATF’s primary function is to coordinate governmental programs on anti-drug efforts and human rights initiatives.

It shall also develop and execute strategies aimed at combating illegal drugs and balancing the human rights of drug suspects; train CHR agents to be embedded to accompany police officials in the conduct of anti-drug operations; and prosecute private or public officials engaged in human rights violations during police operations.

The IATF shall have the power to conduct surveillance and entrapment operations of persons alleged to be engaged in the manufacture, sale, transport, or use of illegal and illicit drugs; cause or direct the immediate investigation and speedy prosecution of cases involving allegations of human rights violations committed during police anti-drug operations; and perform other powers and functions as may be deemed necessary by the Chairperson for the effective discharge of its mandate or as may be directed by the President.