THE Philippines is already a “narco state” as several forces collude to perpetuate the illegal drug trade, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Thursday.
“Now, you ask, the Philippines – are we or are we not a narcotics country? Yes, we are,” Duterte told law enforcers in his visit to Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental, a day after its city mayor, Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., was finally laid to rest.
In his speech, Duterte said the people of Ozamiz City should learn from their bitter experience of narco-politicians lording it over their place, adding “you are now freed of narco-politics; please do not tell me that there’s no one sensible here; do not ever, ever allow narco-politicians.”
Duterte said he did not realize the country’s drug problem to be this huge, as he simply thought that killing drug suspects would cure the country of the drug menace, like what he did while he was Davao mayor.
“Now that I’m President, I told all governors, even mayors – do not ever ever f*** with drugs because if you destroy my country, I will kill you. I have been repeating that,” Duterte said in Filipino.
“My critics were right. I mentioned before that ‘if I get to be elected as president—three to six months.’ I never knew. Davao was my only template then,” he added.
The President, who presented an “updated” narco-list as of Aug. 8 that includes politicians, judges, law enforcers and barangay captains, said the drug problem was well-entrenched, even in places that he did not expect—devoting his whole speech on how it developed.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he was disappointed with the deliberate attempt of the Department of Justice to be “less than transparent” on the number of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration’s bloody war against illegal drugs as he moved to defer the approval of its proposed budget for 2018.
“From the testimony, it is clear that over 4,000 have been killed in the drug operations and that was admitted by the secretary of Justice,” said Drilon, referring to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
On questioning by Drilon in the hearing of the DoJ proposed budget for 2018, Aguirre told the finance committee that out of the more than 4,000 killings– 3,050 legitimate police operations and over 1,000 were vigilante killings.
Based on the data of the Philippine National Police, Aguirre said “over a thousand” were victims of vigilante killings.
Out of the total estimated number of 4,000, he said the NBI was only handling 37 cases, seven of which happened in the National Capital Region, while the 30 others were from other regions.
With respect to the estimate, NBI Director Dante Gierran said it was only related to the investigation conducted by the NBI.
“We do not refer to the investigations being conducted by the other law enforcement agencies such as the PNP,” Gierran stressed.
Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo said 3,050 people had been killed in legitimate police anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to May 2017.
Later asked on its implication in the Justice department’s peformance, Drilon replied: “What performance?”
Pressed if he meant the DoJ had no performance, Drilon quipped, “You call that performance? Of the over 4,000 cases related to drugs, exactly 37 being investigated and of the 37 [cases], 24 are pending and three have been recommended for prosecution. Dismay!”
He described such action of the Justice department as part of the culture of impunity.
Told that Aguirre merely wanted to be accurate, Drilon said he also liked to be accurate. “I’m just basing my statements on their facts. That’s why we will have another hearing on August 31.”
Drilon, a former Justice secretary, also questioned the P33-million budget of the DoJ Interagency committee on extrajudicial killings.
“I cannot understand what is the interagency committee. They cannot even explain what are their job. And they are spending more than P30 million of people’s money. I really cannot understand what they are doing,” Drilon said.
Drilon said there would be another hearing for the DoJ because there were several topics they would want to raise.
“We want to avoid asking these questions on the floor. We’d rather ask these in the committee, because when the budget is presented without all these questions being asked, this leaves us with no choice but to ask them on the floor. That will delay the approval of the budget,” he said.
The proposed budget for DoJ under the submitted 2018 national budget is P17.276 billion, which is 0.46 percent of the total proposed P3.767 trillion.
Out of the P17.726 billion, the Office of the Secretary will be allocated P6.5 billion; Bureau of Corrections, P2.36 billion; Bureau of Immigration, P943 million; Land Registration Authority, P1.072 billion; National Bureau of Investigation, P1.468 billion; Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, P126 million; Office of the Solicitor General, P803 million; Parole and Probation Administration, P877 million; Presidential Commission on Good Government, P121 million; and Public Attorney’s Office, P2.99 billion.
For his part, Aguirre debunked Drilon’s allegations that they were not trasnparent with their figures on the killings in connection with the drug operations.
“I told them that there’s no truth to that. Why are we going to hide them? The President is very transparent on this,” he told reporters in an interview after the budget hearing.
“First, with the NBI, what are the cases that are investigated—they just arrived. Now with respect to the killings related to legitimate operations, it’s like a breakdown, aside from the 3,050, there are killings by the other group—the vigilante group,” he said.
Defending the interagency committee, Aguirre said they were very active in their job, meeting once a month on updates on killings.
On the dismal performance as claimed by Drilon, Aguirre said the NBI was earlier not required to investigate these killings until he issued Department Order No. 120 only in February 2017.
He said that based on the law which was authored by Drilon, there were limitations to cases that could be investigated by NBI.
“Investigating deaths or drug related killings is not one of them. And under the law, I could add functions to the NBI so I added in February 2017. Meaning to say before that date, the NBI had no obligation to investigate these killings,” related Aguirre.
In the same hearing, Drilon also quizzed Aguirre about the said order which directs NBI to “conduct investigations on reported killings allegedly related to the campaign against illegal drugs.”
Aguirre initially told the committee that they can provide the necessary data after 10 days. Gierran said there was no “intent to delay” any information or data on alleged EJKs. “We just want to be accurate,” he said.
But when Drilon sought to have a preliminary estimate and threatened to “hold in abeyance” the department’s budget, Aguirre said the data would be provided after 20 minutes.
Among those contributing to the perpetuation of the country’s drug problem, the President stressed, was the entry of illegal drugs from foreign shores; politicians and law enforcement agencies condoning the drug trade; and even terrorists using the drug trade to raise money.
Calling the Bureau of Customs “corrupt to the core,” the President said he did not expect that the greed of some officials in the agency would reach a new high by letting illicit drugs from mainland China slip without notice.
“I feel so bad [with] all of these things. How could I control in three to six months (the problem), when the police generals are involved? Even the Bureau of Customs were involved. P******* ina, nasa droga,” Duterte said.
“How will I succeed [if] they’re into drugs? … I really thought that the Bureau of Customs were (sic) one with me,” he added.
Duterte said the deaths of Parojinog and Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa should serve as lesson to all politicians involved in the drug menace, reiterating his vow to “kill” them all.
“[This] is always a lesson to be learned,” he said.
He also reiterated his call for the police force to clean its ranks, placing a P2-million bounty on the heads of members of the PNP who are protecting the drug trade in the country.
“I am ordering the PNP chief, Bato [dela Rosa] is here, order somebody there in Crame to prepare a list. The police involved in drugs, I’ll place a P2 million bounty on your head. No questions asked. ..I want you down dead,” he said.
Duterte also reiterated that “shabu” was keeping Islamic State-inspired terrorists holed up in Marawi City—tenacious despite their dwindling numbers for months already. With Macon Ramos-Araneta