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Philippines
Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Online reporting of drug suspects a dangerous extension of illegal and lethal ‘drug watch lists’

Responding to PDEA’s launch of ‘Isumbong Mo kay Wilkins’ campaign against drugs, Section Director, Butch Olano said:

“PDEA’s ‘Isumbong Mo kay Wilkins’ Anti- Drug Campaign poses a dangerous call for ordinary people to add on to the government’s unverified drugs watch lists. These lists are used by the police to get leads for their investigations, at times leading to deadly anti-drug operations. They are highly unreliable, and only creates a system whereby individuals are placed under perpetual surveillance.

“Amnesty research highlighted how drug watch lists may be manufactured as these were generally obtained outside any legal process. Compiling drug watch lists without any legal basis is unjustifiable, irresponsible and illegal. Names could be added arbitrarily, for example, because of personal vendetta or because the police receive incentives for killing more individuals on the lists.

“Amnesty research also showed how it is essentially impossible for names to be expunged from these illegitimate lists. People named on these lists continue to experience crippling fear and uncertainty even after they have gone through the motions required by the government’s anti-drug policy, including ‘graduating’ from community programs.

“The kind of police work that PDEA is promoting is lazy and unacceptable. PDEA Chief Wilkins Villanueva should instead ensure that all ‘war on drugs’ activities are subject to independent oversight to uphold police accountability, including for the thousands of killings and other violations committed in the past. His anti-drug campaign must not fuel the culture of impunity, and prove that under his watch, Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ will not be a war against the poor.”

Background

On 26 May, Duterte appointed Wilkins Villanueva to head the Philippines Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Villanueva said his first order of business was to ensure his agents were safe and prepared to wage the war on drugs in the time of the new coronavirus pandemic, and that his drug campaign will be massive.

On 8 June, Villanueva promised to go after the puppet masters behind drug syndicates following drug raids in Bulacan and Parañaque City. There have been several reports of drug war-related deaths during PDEA operations since Villanueva was appointed. 

July 2019 report by Amnesty International showed that “drug watch lists” reinforce the government’s punitive approach towards drugs and create a system that facilitates the state’s targeting of segments of the civilian population. People on these lists – established outside of any judicial process – have ended up being subjected to unlawful arrest, assault, and killings by the police and armed persons linked to the police.

Another main concern of proponents of drug policy reform, as showed in the report, is whether individuals on the “drug watch lists” can get their names expunged from these illegitimate – and potentially lethal – records. Interviews with local human rights investigators, barangay personnel, and others have made it quite clear that, in essence, there is no way to get delisted, in effect putting in place a system of perpetual surveillance that unlawfully interferes with people’s safety and privacy.

http://www.amnesty.org.ph/news/pdeas-isumbong-mo-kay-wilkins/