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Dumaguete City, Philippines Saturday, July 16, 2016
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CHR warns officials
vs. ‘watch list' abuse

The Commission on Human Rights in Negros Oriental has issued strict warnings against the possible exploitation and abuse by various sectors in relation to the proliferation of the purported watch lists of drug users and pushers in the province.

CHR-Negros Oriental chief Jess Cañete directed his stern warnings at the police, barangay officials and even potential employers who may use the “drugs watch lists” to their advantage and for other reasons.

His pronouncement comes as thousands of drug personalities across the nation had surrendered to the police while many others were also killed in what is now viewed by many as extrajudicial or vigilante killings.

Cañete, however, was quick to point out that while the Duterte administration is waging an all-out war against illegal drugs, the President's mandate is to go after those responsible for the illegal drugs trade but not necessarily kill them.

Unless, of course, a suspect will refuse to yield to authorities and fight back that will prompt the latter to take another plan of action, such as shooting the suspect to neutralize him or her, he added.

“I'd like to correct the impression that the President is allowing these things. The President is also a lawyer and I still remember the very words that he spoke, when he said that he will not allow extrajudicial killings”.

Cañete said yesterday he will be closely monitoring the activities surrounding the so-called voluntary surrender of “drug pushers and users” in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's war against illegal drugs.

“You have to issue clearances to those included in the lists of the so-called surrenderees, because that (list) cannot be used as a ground for denial of a clearance in the barangay,” he warned barangay officials.

It will be arbitrary on the part of the barangay official who will deny a person in the list the clearance that person is seeking, he added.

“Remember, the persons in the list are technically not criminals and they have voluntarily surrendered to the police,” Cañete said.

He further cautioned the barangay officials against acts that would put a supposed drug pusher or user to shame, referring to reports that during Oplan TokHang, a megaphone was used in one barangay to call out the names of those in the drugs watch list.

“Do it in a way that it is not offensive to the majority”, Cañete said.

Using a megaphone or a public address system will create stigma, he stressed, adding that the list may not even be accurate.

Some of the names included in the list are not actually drug pushers or users but were only included perhaps for other reasons, he said.

“That list is very sensitive. That list is unverified and I will still be questioning how that list has been made and who made it,” Cañete warned.

Cañete went on to warn the barangay officials to not use the lists “for their political interests”, apparently referring to the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on October 31 this year.

The same is true for potential employers, he said.

“Using that list as a ground for refusal or denial of an application for a job is a violation. Do not deny an applicant by virtue of that person being in that list,” he said.

Cañete went on to say that employers would or should not know of a person being included in the watch list unless that is being leaked.

Also, the police and the barangay from whom a list emanated must be careful to keep it to themselves and not disclose the same to the public, Cañete said.

Meanwhile, Cañete said he and newly-installed Philippine National Police provincial director of Negros Oriental, Sr. Supt. Nestor Tiempo, have already met and discussed issues and concerns on the so-called extrajudicial killings.

“From now on, if there are killings that are drug-related as reported by our law enforcers, all spot reports or any initial document gathered out of the investigation on that incident must be furnished this office,” he said.

Cañete added a directive from the CHR Central Office in Manila for close monitoring on the relentless and massive campaign against illegal drugs and make periodic reports because “extrajudicial killings seems to be a trend nowadays”.*JFP


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