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Law enforcement agencies to probe ‘links’ of rights groups to drug syndicates

Authorities will be looking into the claim of two Cabinet secretaries that drug lords may be using some human rights groups to discredit the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, an official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said Tuesday. 

PDEA Director Derrick Carreon said the probe will check on the link between personalities behind the human rights organizations and drug operators.

“This has been a recent finding. So we will coordinate with our counterparts from PNP [Philippine National Police], NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] and all other agencies including intelligence agencies kung kailangan,” Carreon said at a press briefing in Malacañang.

Carreon said that the information put forth by presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was still subject to verification.

“That is still subject of further investigation by all law enforcement agencies,” Carreon said.

PNP spokesperson Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao also underscored the need to validate the claim that has been slammed by New York-based Human Rights Watch for lack of evidence.

Asked if the PNP has findings to back up the claim of the Cabinet officials, Bulalacao said none at the moment.

“We still have to dig further on this but you can see the attack against the anti-drug campaign while law enforcement agencies like the PDEA and the PNP are making honest efforts on the ground. We’d like to stand by our efforts na kami we are doing our job according to the rule of law,” Carreon said.

Carreon, however, dispelled the notion that any criticism of the anti-narcotics campaign may be construed as having been aided by drug lords.

“Hindi naman po pero gaya nang sinabi natin there might be a possibility na sinasakyan ng kalaban natin kasi any damage or any attack against the campaign is advantageous to the other side,” he said.

He said they would like to think that the criticisms on the conduct of the intensified anti-illegal drugs campaign, which is being linked to thousands of deaths, “are done with the intent of being constructive.”

“[B]ut nevertheless any damage to the campaign is of course affects our effort somehow na gusto nilang bahiran ng doubt when in fact adjustments have been made on the ground by our agency, our main counterpart, the PNP, and we would like to stand by the regularity of our operations,” the PDEA official said.

“We’ve been transparent. We’ve been inviting media. We invite other stakeholders. We wear body cameras. We allow stakeholders to join us in entering the area para naman po makita nila we have been adjusting as well in order to dispel any notions that operations are conducted with any kind of irregularities,” he said.

The PDEA is the lead agency in the war on drugs but the PNP, along with other agencies, is mandated by President Rodrigo Duterte to provide active support.

Latest government data show that from July 1, 2016 to March 20, 2018, a total of 91,704 anti-drug operations were conducted by the PDEA and other law enforcement agencies which resulted in the arrest of 123,648 drug personalities.

A total of 4,075 drug personalities have died during those operations. — RSJ/NB, GMA News