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Philippines: Police reforms cannot be achieved through ultra-violent methods

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
February 12, 2020

The South China Morning Post recently published a report quoting Colonel Romeo Caramat stating that the Philippines’ ultra-violent approach in curbing drugs has not been effective. He further went on to say that "shock and awe definitely did not work”. The drug supply is still widespread and illicit drugs can be obtained anywhere, anytime in the Philippines.

Colonel Caramat, earlier on, was one of the toughest enforcers of President Duterte's ultra-violent Illicit Drug Policy. He was responsible for the killing of 32 people. These killings took place within 24 hours in a Province north of Manila when he was Chief of Police there. Now he is the head of drug enforcement for the Philippine National Police. He had to admit the failure of President Duterte’s policy pursued for three to five years. President Duterte's spokesman claimed that the drug policy was winning. However, President Duterte himself, on several occasions, recently admitted that the war on drugs, with a call to kill addicts and traffickers, has failed in many key objectives. He attributed the failure to rampant corruption prevalent in the Philippines.

It was predictable that President Duterte's ultra-violent approach to curb the Entry/Illicit Drug Policy was doomed to fail. What has to be achieved, through significant reforms in the Institutions of Justice, particularly in the Policing System, cannot be achieved with the extreme violence existing in the Philippines. The root cause of the failure to curb the spreading of illicit drugs was that a LAW ENFORCEMENT capacity does not exist in the Philippines. This is due to the failure of the Justice System as a whole and in particular the Policing System. The extent of the corruption within the Policing System as well as the complete ineffectiveness of the system is widely known.

The Asian Human Rights Commission, in one of their reports published in their quarterly magazine, Article 2, entitles its report as the Philippines having a ROTTEN system of justice. It is this rotten system that has to be cleansed as the substantial menace of the spread of drugs is being handled by ineffective law enforcement personnel. However, neither President Duterte not his predecessors have shown any political will in this situation. They need to touch on these important areas of national life and protection of the people. They need the return of a RESPONSIBLE Police Force together with reform in other sections of its Justice System.

The overall perception in political circles is that dealing with the Policing System is far more difficult than dealing with the illicit drug problem. Therefore, a shortcut was attempted by using ultra-violent means to curb the illicit drugs. However, such shortcuts cannot work in a country where law enforcement itself is the UMBRELLA under which the drug dealers and traffickers take shelter.

Not only the illicit drugs problem but also every other major problem in the Philippines is rooted in the ineffective administration of its Justice System. It is the primary evil that prevails in the country as a whole, giving rise to other evils like the spread of illicit drugs. Without addressing the root causes of the most significant aspects of their nation's failures, it is not possible to overcome any major problems that come up. The ultimate result of this bad Justice System affecting every area negatively, is the ever-increasing increasing POVERTY of the people in the Philippines. Extreme poverty creates victims who take refuge in the use of drugs. However, the extreme poverty issue cannot be dealt with without the support of a WELL-FUNCTIONING ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE SYSTEM.

It is not only the Government which has failed to realize the importance of dealing with the issue of a failed Justice System. Even the Civil Society has not demonstrated a will to fight this pronounced evil which effects every aspect of Philippine life. Great achievements were made through “People's Power” to overthrow the President Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. But, attempts were not made to achieve structural changes that supported authoritarianism. Thus, the emergence of authoritarian methods and authoritarian rule have been operative up to the present. The challenge facing the Philippine people is that there will be sufficient political will within the population to address the paramount problem they are fronting nation-wide.

This failure is their SYSTEM OF JUSTICE, particularly the failure within their POLICING SYSTEM.

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