President Rodrigo Duterte defended himself before world leaders on Wednesday, insisting that other countries should not interfere with his anti-drug war since policemen who committed abuses would be held accountable.
Duterte’s assurance to the United Nations (UN) general assembly came days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) formally authorized an investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity committed by the state forces during the anti-narcotics drive early in his term which left thousands of drug suspects dead.
“I have instructed the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Philippine National Police to review the conduct of our campaign against illegal drugs,” he told the international body, referring to the ongoing drug war review led by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
“Those found to have acted beyond bounds during operations shall be made accountable before our laws,” Duterte said.
He added that his government has been working with the UN Human Rights Council to look into the cases of alleged police abuses in his drug war.
Of the more than 5,000 deaths related to the drug war, three policemen involved in the killing of an innocent Kian delos Santos in Caloocan City — Police Officer 3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jeremiah Pereda, and PO1 Jerwin Cruz — were found guilty of his 2017 murder.
The President also told world leaders to keep their hands off his campaign against the drug trade, saying they should not impose their will on other nations.
“Meaningful change, to be enduring, must come from within. The imposition of one’s will over another — no matter how noble the intent — has never worked in the past. And it never will in the future,” Duterte said.
“How many more countries shall be made to unravel and descend into chaos before the powerful heed this simple lesson?” he asked.
Breach of protocols
Two reports on the drug war review have been submitted to Duterte. The initial report stated that the DoJ found that police failed to follow protocols in many anti-drug operations, while the findings stated in the second report were not publicized and were tagged as confidential.
Rights groups have alleged that Duterte merely launched the DoJ investigation to escape international prosecution, including the ICC probe, an accusation that has been denied by the Palace.
Call for UN reforms
Shortly after defending his drug war, Duterte called for reforms at the UN as he criticized the Security Council, the pinnacle of the organization’s structure.
Duterte, reinforcing his reputation as an outspoken speaker, slammed the Security Council for supposedly being “neither democratic nor transparent in its representation and processes”.
“Many member states have spoken firmly and we agree: This simply is not right,” he claimed.
“If the UN is to lead the world out of the many crises we face, things need to change. The UN must empower itself, by reforming itself. Therein lies the hope for humanity,” Duterte said.
The Philippine leader also called the UN “inadequate,” describing it as a “product of an era long past”.
“It no longer reflects the political and economic realities of today,” he added.
His remarks against the UN did not come as a surprise, since he has repeatedly lashed out at the organization and even went as far as calling it “inutile.”
The Security Council, one of the six principal organs of the UN, is tasked with ensuring international peace and security, recommending the admission of new members to the general assembly, and approving any changes to the body’s charter.
It has five permanent members, namely: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States — all of which have veto powers. The 10 remaining seats were rotated among UN member states every two years.
The Philippine government views the war against drugs as a success.
According to data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the value of seized illegal drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPEC), and laboratory equipment from the time President Duterte came to power in July 2016 to July this year has amounted to P62.22 billion.
The total weight of shabu confiscated, it said, was at 8,134.61 kilograms with a value of P51.33 billion. For cocaine, the agency seized a total of 523.48 kilos, while party drug ecstasy amounted to 124,565 pieces and dried marijuana leaves with a total weight of 6,567.74 kilos.
PDEA chief Wilkins Villanueva, said the agency has dismantled 835 drug dens, 18 clandestine laboratories for a total of 853 drug sites in a span of five years.
PDEA has also declared a total of 42,045 barangays as drug-free, although it still has a backlog of 12,731 barangays yet to be cleared.
Operatives reportedly arrested a total of 494 government employees, 388 elected officials, and 119 uniformed personnel who were found to be involved in the proliferation of illegal drugs.
Data from the agency also revealed that it has conducted 210,312 anti-illegal drug operations and arrested a total of 303,154 individuals involved in illegal drugs and drug trade, while 6,181 persons were reportedly killed during sting operations.
For high-value targets arrested, the agency operatives nabbed 319 foreign nationals, 3,634 target-listed individuals, 784 drug group leaders and members, 72 armed group members, 1,291 drug den maintainers, 283 wanted listed, 22 celebrities or license holders, and 5,443 were arrested from high impact operations.
Including the government employees, elected officials and uniformed personnel arrested by authorities, the PDEA said that it has arrested a total of 12,849 individuals five years into Duterte’s term.
Record from the PDEA also showed that it had rescued minors involved in the illegal drug trade — 937 possessors, two runners, 424 users, 1 clan lab employee, 15 drug den employees, nine drug den maintainers, 203 drug den visitors, two cultivators, and 2,276 pushers or drug peddlers.