The National Police Commission has spoken.
And what it says exposes a fundamental flaw in the Duterte administration’s implementation of its bloody war on drugs from 2016 to 2019.
That flaw is measuring the success of the war on drugs on the sheer number of drug suspects killed and clamped in jail, as well as on the size of the drugs seized.
Duterte regularly repeated his “kill, kill, kill” mantra to the police who dutifully carried out his marching order for them to take no prisoners, especially if they resisted arrest.
The police always claimed those killed were “nanlaban” or fought back. But these claims were not substantiated at all, just accepted by the public out of fear or reprisal if they as much breathed a word about “salvaging” to human rights groups here and abroad.
The Napolcom is now saying the quota system in the PNP where promotions of officers depended on how many arrests were made and how big was the drug haul is what’s at fault.
It kept mum, however, on how many suspected ‘drug personalities’ were summarily executed.
News reports in the early years of the Duterte administration revealed that police offices at the local level were told to account for 30 drug personalities for a certain period—perhaps every week.
The PNP officially acknowledges more than 6,200 killed since 2016 to the present.
But human rights groups here and abroad monitoring the war on drugs had tallied figures of between 20,000 to 30,000 killed, an assertion that is practically impossible to validate given the hesitancy of the families of victims to come forward for fear of reprisals.
It was Atty. Alberto Bernardo, Napolcom vice chair and executive officer, who said the anti-drug agencies were planning a shift in strategy to veer away from a statistics-heavy analysis of the country’s drug situation in the wake of the controversy over the P6.7-billion drug haul in Manila last year and its alleged cover-up.
“We need to change this statistical basis in our crime situation wherein performance rating is based on the volume of seizures, which has prompted some officers to concoct their arrests just so they can have accomplishments,” he said.
Bernardo said the current system requiring police officers to produce five to 10 arrests to be considered for promotion was inherently flawed.
“For instance, if a province or a city has low drug-related crime statistics, this should not be taken to mean the drug situation there is good; on the other hand, no arrests should not be taken to mean that the locality is already drug-free,” he said.
Talk about turning a bad thing into a good thing.
The bad thing is the alleged involvement of at least two top police officers in the cover-up of the seizure in 2022 of nearly a ton of shabu.
But the good thing is that this has opened a can of worms that should now prod the PNP to radically change its strategy and tactics in the war on illegal drugs.