Karapatan condemns killing of 3 individuals, rounding up of hundreds in Tondo, Antipolo anti-drug ops

Human rights group Karapatan hit the recent anti-drug operations conducted by the police and military forces in Baseco Compound in Tondo, Manila, and in Antipolo City, Rizal on Sunday, August 11, where at least three individuals were reportedly killed and hundreds were rounded up.

According to reports, before dawn on Sunday, members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) - Region IV-A and the Philippine Army steered the operations in four sitios in Brgy. San Isidro in Antipolo City based on an arrest warrant issued by the Antipolo Regional Trial Court Branch 100. Meanwhile, in Manila, the city’s police district conducted an operation to rid areas of illegal drugs and loose firearms, and as a response to the mayor’s order to “clear Baseco” from the drug menace.

A total of 80 individuals who were on the drug watch list in Antipolo City were brought to the covered court in Sitio Tanglaw while operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency searched their homes. In Manila, aside from the 700 residents who were rounded up by authorities, three people were killed after they allegedly exchanged fire with operatives.

“As we’ve seen how police and military forces executed the anti-drug operations in two key cities last Sunday, we are once again witnessing scenes that eventually leads up to the continuation of this regime’s bloody war on drugs and relentless violations of people’s rights. We should not forget that since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, thousands were also rounded up, listed in several drug watch lists, and then killed in either police operations or vigilante-style killings,” Roneo Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General said.

“Halfway to his term, Duterte has terrorized entire families and communities while deepening a culture of impunity. This has become a repetitive narrative from a war with no end in sight, particularly not for the poor who bear the brunt of this militarist, ineffective, and brutal policy," added Clamor. 

From July 2016 to May 2019, data from the PNP showed that 6,600 persons were killed under Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, while thousands more have died and have been classified under "deaths under investigation." In sum, human rights organizations have placed the death toll to at least 27,000.

“What happened on Sunday is a continuation of the myriad forms of abuses by emboldened state forces who are intoxicated with a false sense of power and protection from fellow butchers. Whether in rural or urban areas, the attacks have not ceased, but have only taken new and different forms. Nowadays, drug operations are synonymous to a brutal carnage, search operations are synonymous to planting of evidence, and the PNP is synonymous to mercenaries. This is the result of Duterte's drug war policy," reiterated Clamor.

According to the Karapatan official, the Duterte administration must first address the inconsistencies and human rights violations in anti-drug operations reported during its first three years: "Police refuse to be transparent. They withhold information that is crucial for the families of victims to attain justice. Aside from the thousands of casualties, this regime is also building up lies and diversionary tactics to avoid accountability. Despite all its bravado, this government cowers when families and kin of victims stand up to tell their stories and demand accountability."

“With the ongoing efforts to end the drug problem in the Philippines, Karapatan reiterates its call for an end to extrajudicial killings killings and all attacks against the Filipino people. We want to remind the government, especially the President, that the drug menace can be eliminated without disregarding the basic rights of the people, especially the poor. There needs to be a holistic approach to the problem, instead of killing people. We also repeat our support for ongoing efforts - both at the national and international level - to investigate reports of human rights violations under this regime's flagship policy," said Clamor, citing the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights’ comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the country.

"The masterminds should be brought to justice, and all who condoned, financed, and directed the killing of thousands should be made accountable," ended Clamor.