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Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark asking civilians to help the government arrest suspected drug dealers and shoot them if they resist could lead to a more dangerous problem such as a breakdown in law and order in the country, senator-elect Panfilo Lacson and another lawmaker warned on Monday.
Lacson, who served as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) during former President Joseph Estrada’s Administration, said that while the law allows citizen’s arrests in which civilians can kill a person in self-defense, ordinary citizens have no proper training to conduct overt operations against criminals.
“I believe that it is not right for an incoming President of the country to encourage the public to take it upon themselves to arrest and kill suspected drug lords because law enforcement authorities might lose control of the situation,” Lacson explained.
He pointed out that validating the list of drug suspects and members of other criminal syndicates entails a series of exchanges of intelligence information among different Intelligence agencies called “intelligence workshops” and undergoes a careful and tedious process that leads to an Order of Battle (OB) list.
Also, the OB is a classified document and declassifying it follows a defined procedure and timeline, hence the public has no direct or indirect access to it.
Duterte, in a speech during his thanksgiving party in Davao on Saturday, encouraged civilians to help him go after illegal drug traders by arresting or even killing them if they resist arrest. He said he was willing to give rewards and medals to those who would be able to kill the real drug dealers.
“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun; you have my support. If a drug dealer resists arrest or refuses to be brought to a police station and threatens a citizen with a gun or a knife, you can kill him. Shoot him and I’ll give you a medal,” the incoming President said.
Lacson disagreed with Duterte.
“Private citizens should be encouraged instead to report to authorities the presence of drug pushers and big time drug lords and that is where the incentive of monetary reward should come into play,” the senator-elect said.
He added that no peace-loving citizen needs or deserves a “Wild, Wild West” environment.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon agreed with Lacson, saying civilians should not make arrests based on a mere suspicion that someone is a drug dealer.
“The license to kill is only for the movies. Hindi puwedeng makakita ka lang ng sumisinghot singhot eh papatayin mo na agad. Hindi uubra ‘yung ganung diskarte (You can’t just shoot someone who is sniffing drugs. That strategy will not work),” Ridon told reporters.
“If it were a legitimate police operation, then that would be the context. We should always respect human rights in implementing the law and enforcing anti-drug operations,” he said.
“There are mechanisms toward fighting illegal drugs. I leave it to the incoming President to clarify the manner of engagement on drug suspects and drug dealers,” he added.
Citizens warned to ‘be careful’
But Sen.Vicente Sotto 3rd sees nothing wrong with Duterte’s pronouncement, saying citizen’s arrest is not a new policy.
“But I would advise the citizens to be very careful because these drug lords are also armed, so they (civilians) should be very careful,” Sotto said in an separate interview.
As for concerns about possible abuse that may be committed by some civilians who will heed Duterte’s call, the senator explained that those who will make false allegations shall also be held accountable.
“If they cannot prove that they arrested a real drug lord they will also be charged and jailed,” Sotto said.
Senate president Franklin Drilon declined to comment on the issue.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), meanwhile, expressed all-out support to Duterte’s proposal for citizens to help the government capture the drug lords in the country.
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