MANILA – The Department of Interior and Local Government’s threat of sanctions on barangay officials failing to submit a list of drug personalities could open the floodgates to abuse as a result of “unthorough submission of names,” the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) warned Monday.
“Addressing the problem on the sale and use of illegal drugs is best achieved with the participation of all concerned, especially the community. At the same time, Constitutional guarantees, such as presumption of innocence and right to due process, are in place to ensure that human rights are protected at all times,” said CHR in a statement.
The CHR said it welcomed “community-based programs directed to strengthen the government’s effort to curb the issue of illegal drugs and criminality. However, we urge the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), as well as barangay officials, to be more discerning in carrying out the directive to submit a list of suspected drug pushers and criminals in their communities.”
The CHR said it had “consistently maintained that intelligence gathering in pursuing drug personalities and criminals is a function of law enforcement.” However, “giving sanctions to barangay officials who would not comply may encourage a practice of unthorough submission of names just to avoid being penalized by the DILG,” it added.
Pending the issuance of its comprehensive guidelines, CHR said it is open “to join forces with the DILG to ensure that adequate safeguards are observed in operationalizing this directive.”
The DILG, it added, “must also present a clear process on how barangay officials will obtain valid information on the suspected personalities, as well as ways to verify the integrity of that information.”
Finally,CHR reiterated its call to the government “to evaluate its anti-illegal drug campaign and adopt a more responsive and human rights-based approach to combatting criminality, while providing avenues for collaboration to concerned communities and sectors who genuinely want to contribute in achieving the government’s goal of providing a dignified life for all.”
The order for barangay chiefs to submit lists of drug personalities – a controversial practice blamed in the past for the targeting of people by supposed vigilantes suspected to be doing the “dirty job” for police – was announced by DILG Undersecretary Martin Diño a day after he was appointed to his post.
The new head of the DILG, as its OIC-Secretary, is former Armed Forces chief Eduardo M. Año. He said last week he will not condone extrajudicial killings.
The barangay-level list was tagged as a veritable “kill list in the past, after thousands were gunned down across the nation from a combination of PNP-acknowledged official operations and unsolved shootings attributed to “vigilantes” or unknown parties.