Police to investigate claim that human rights groups ‘used’ by drug lords

human rights
A protest against the war on drugs held in 2016

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency is to investigate the Malacañang’s claim that drug lords use human rights groups as “unwitting tools” to undermine the drug war.

PDEA spokesman Derrick Arnold Carreon gave his backing to the claim made by presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday (Monday, March 26).

“There might be a possibility that our enemies are taking advantage because of course, any damage or attack against the campaign [to fight the drug trade] is, of course, advantageous to the other side,” he told palace reporters today.

“Of course, that is still subject to further investigation by all law enforcement agencies. But seeing the trend of how they attack the anti-drug campaign, I guess we can only surmise that it might be unwitting to the human rights groups that they are being capitalised or made as leverage by drug group.”

At the same briefing, police spokesman Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao said the police would coordinate with the PDEA to investigate the claim.

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The allegation was first made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Sunday. He suggested that human rights organisations were not aware of how they are being used by drug lords to discredit President Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign.

Rights groups and other organisations have long protested against alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects carried out under the umbrella of the drug war.

In his statement yesterday, Roque said drug lords wanted to “continue to do and thrive in the drug business”, and so were looking for ways to destabilise the administration’s efforts to fight the drug trade.

New York-based Human Rights Watch was swift to hit back at the”dangerous” and “baseless” accusations, saying they were intended to “undermine the integrity of already beleaguered Philippine human rights activists”.

Local rights group Karapatan also issued a statement today, warning that the allegations could be “cooking up a scenario that will justify a massive tokhang-style killing of activists or it is one of those attempts to evade accountability from domestic and international human rights instruments.”

Chf. Supt. Bulalacao said the PDEA and other law enforcement agencies would not allow anyone to undermine anti-drug efforts, which he said were being conducted “according to the rule of law”.

He added that investigators would “dig further on the claim of Roque and Cayetano”.

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