Duterte’s drug war kills 12 in UPD
■ Rat San Juan
The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte leaves no space safe with its declaration of war against drugs, even among the poor communities inside the UP Diliman (UPD) campus.
During the president’s first year in office, 12 people were already killed in Barangay UP Campus due to police operations conducted by Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Station 9. Seven were killed in three separate incidents in UP Arboretum, while the rest died in two operations along C.P. Garcia Avenue, based on data from the Directive for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM) in Camp Karingal.
“The PNP (Philippine National Police) has never coordinated with UPD regarding these drug operations,” said Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Nestor Castro. Under the 1989 UP-Department of National Defense Accord, no member of the police may conduct any police operation on campus without prior notice.
However, Castro reassured that these operations took place outside the academic core of the campus and administration will continue to work closely with Barangay UP Campus and the UPD Police (UPDP) to address the drug activities.
“Sa part naman ng UP community, nakikita nila na ito’y pambubusabos ng estado sa kanilang mga pantaong karapatan,” said Community Rights and Welfare (CRAW) Head Gabby Lucero. The Oplan Tokhang and anti-drug operations within campus is seen as a form of state neglect in addressing circumstances that lead people in poverty to the lucrative drug trade, she said.
As of press time, around 8,000 were already reportedly killed in Oplan Tokhang which included victims of vigilante-style operations.
Rise in numbers
A total of 78 people have surrendered for drug use in Barangay UP Campus since Duterte’s inauguration. This includes one of the 12 killed in police operations, who is 40-year-old Romel Esguerra, a resident of Pook Village B. Esguerra was allegedly abducted before being taken to UP Arboretum and subsequently killed in a “buy-bust operation” along with an unidentified suspect last September 25, 2016.
Authorities from the UPDP have noted a decrease in the number of drug-related incidents in UP campus, attributing this as an effect of President Duterte’s drug war. However, this is contradicted by police documents.
In just the first half of 2017, the UPDP documented nine drug cases within UPD involving 20 suspects and resulting in 12 arrests. The same year now holds the highest number of drug-related incidents reported during each of the past seven years, according to the UPDP’s annual crime statistics review. The nine recorded drug cases so far in 2017 are tied with 2015, which only involved 12 suspects for the entire year. There were no documented drug cases in UP Diliman in 2010, 2011, and 2013.
Notably, none of the 12 arrests this year were done in February with the temporary suspension of Oplan Tokhang. Most of the cases came with the resumption of the drug war, dubbed “Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded,” with nine out of the 12 total arrests in UP Diliman made between March 13 and June 21.
Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs has been denounced by advocacy groups for alleged widespread human rights violations, imprisonment, and summary killings which have primarily targeted the poor.
The prevalent drug trade is a consequence of poverty in the communities said Kap. Isabelita Gravidez of Brgy. UP Campus. “Hindi mo masisisi kasi ang barangay namin ay 70% mahirap. Ida-divert na nila lahat ng kalokohan sa easy money.”
Around 4 million of Filipinos are jobless while 6.5 million are underemployed, based on the latest account of IBON Foundation. The current minimum wage in the National Capital Region (NCR) meanwhile stands at P491 per day, far from the estimated P1,130 needed for a family to survive.
Eight out of the nine drug-related cases recorded by the UPDP were turned over to QCPD Station 9. The UPDP is not part of the PNP and is consequently not equipped to handle drug cases, explained Senior Police Officer Segundo Rabang, head of the Investigation and Follow-Up Section of the UPDP. While initial investigations are undertaken by the UPDP, crimes such as drug use, robbery, physical injury, rape, and shooting are usually referred to the said station.
Mobile UPDP units routinely patrolling around campus would usually arrest drug suspects, take them to UPDP Headquarter for inventory of confiscated evidence, and then bring them to the QCPD station.
Barangay U.P. Campus also helps identify drug threats outside of the academic zone of UP Diliman and the UPDP’s area of responsibility. Gravidez reports some of the potential drug abusers and sources to QCPD Station 9.
Despite the number of cases referred to and handled by the station, it has only two separate detention cells for men and women, each with a 15 person capacity. The slow legal process has sometimes resulted in “clogging” with as many as 40-50 men cramped into a single cell.
According to authorities of the station, detainees would sometimes need to take turns in sleeping and standing up, while those held in custody were prone to infections and developing boils. These are the conditions experienced by the drug suspects arrested in UP campus as they awaited bail or a commitment order.
The barangay has efforts to curb poverty and rampant drug use, particularly providing educational opportunities such as scholarships, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Alternative Learning System (ALS), and on-going construction of a daycare center, Gravidez said.
Yet despite of these efforts, Gravidez still recognized the need for the relocation of informal settlers with the upcoming demolition of 13 areas within Barangay UP Campus to address the drug problem.
“Hindi naman sila pupunta dito sa Maynila kung may mga trabaho at may sapat silang sahod sa probinsya. So dahil sa migration na yun, mas dumadami yung cases ng pagkakaroon ng mga drug pushers dahil sa kahirapan,” Lucero said. ■
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