UAE- Filipino expats' worries over drug war allayed

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Despite thousands of people killed in the war against drugs in the Philippines, the country will not turn into another Colombia, Martin Andanar, Philippine presidential communications operations secretary, said at a town hall meeting with leaders of the Filipino community in Dubai on Sunday.

Andanar also denied allegations by various human rights groups of extra judicial killings and added that President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign is a success and enjoys support from 80 per cent of Filipinos, according to various surveys.

Answering a question by Khaleej Times, Andanar said the Philippines is unlike Colombia. "In Colombia, they were manufacturing drugs, growing poppy seeds; whereas the Philippines is being used a transshipment point for illegal drugs."

Early this year, former Colombian president Csar Gaviria, who waged a bloody war against drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, wrote an opinion piece in New York Times telling Duterte that a drug war solely reliant on police and military might is "unwinnable".

"It's not a war you win by sending in troops. Trust me, I learned the hard way," Gaviria wrote. He added that a militarist tough-on-drugs approach is populist one but "the war on drugs is essentially a war on people. The war against them cannot be won by armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone."

Andanar said: "Why Colombia failed in their war against drugs, they have their own reasons. But we (Philippine government) have our own tactics. Different folks, different strokes."

Andanar also expressed that the Philippines government does not condone extrajudicial killings because capital punishment is not even inscribed in the constitution. "How can there be extrajudicial killings when in the first place there is not such thing as "judicial killings" in our country?" Andanar reasoned out.

The Duterte administration has been under public scrutiny, particularly by human rights organisations, for its bloody war on drugs.

Reports have placed the number of deaths at a staggering 13,000 while official government figures show that since Duterte took office last year until July 2017, around 3,450 'drug personalities' have been killed in gun fights with authorities. Meanwhile, 2,000 more died in drug-related homicides, including attacks by motorcycle-riding masked gunmen and 8,200 homicide cases were placed 'under investigation.

"Why do these organisations and some media, especially Western media, keep on harping on the 10,000-17,000 deaths when official figures from the Philippine National Police (PNP), the authorities on this issue, show that there are only 3,000+ deaths?," Andanar emphasised.

"The PNP never denied the deaths, but these were results of police operations. Haven't these (human rights groups and media) heard of the criminal gangs killing each other," Andanar added.

Andanar said the Philippine war on drugs should not be held in the same vein as the campaign against illegal drugs in Europe "because they have legalised drugs over there. Andanar said whatever criticisms are hurled against the Duterte government, it will still continue with its tough campaign against illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by Manila-based Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that 7 in 10 Filipinos fear that they may become victims of extrajudicial killings. Some groups of overseas Filipino workers also joined a huge protest rally last month condemning the death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, son of a domestic worker based in Saudi Arabia, who died in the hands of Philippine police.


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