As the war on drugs in the country escalates, the intensified national anti-drug campaign put a premium on the value of human lives, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

“Contrary to public notion that the campaign is promoting extra-judicial killings, PDEA is not in the business to take shortcuts to bring drug suspects to justice,” said PDEA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña.

The marching order of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to PDEA is to stop the drug problem by all means that the law allows. The fight must be relentless and sustained.

“Human life is precious and as law enforcers, we are duty bound to protect it.  However, taking human life is not the intent of anti-drug operations. These incidences of death are results of violent actions of drug pushers towards law enforcers during lawful arrests,” Lapeña said.

In international law, law enforcers are allowed to deliberately take life where there is absolute necessary to defend themselves and others against an imminent threat to life.

On the other hand, members of the religious sector are openly criticizing the spate of drug-related killings. According to them, “A good purpose is not a justification for using evil means. It is good to remove the drug problem, but to kill in order to achieve this is also wrong.”

Lapeña said that the solutions nonetheless do not lie in the killing of suspected drug users and pushers. “If we consent or allow the killings, we shall also be responsible for their deaths. The act of using dangerous drugs is a violation of the anti-drug law. However, drug users are never subjected to drug operations or incarcerated for their act. They are instead subjected to treatment and rehabilitation programs to give them second chance in life,” he said.

In addressing the current country’s drug problem, the efforts of the government is not limited to the drug supply reduction strategy as other quarters claim. There is also an existing comprehensive national program geared towards the strategy of drug demand reduction, alternative development, civic awareness and response, and regional and international cooperation.

“We have to take the good with the bad. The potential benefits of the drug war include the suppression of drug-related crimes. It is because the drug dependents will not have easy access to illegal drugs that would drive them to commit criminal acts. This would keep our communities safer and more peaceful. But like any other war, it has disastrous effects on both the combatants-drug law enforcement officers and drug personalities, and civilians. The risk of losing lives is one of them,” Lapeña noted.

On the issue that the so-called victims of the anti-drug war are mostly poor, Lapeña said that majority of Filipinos, who are found living below poverty line, are easily lured into illegal drug activities. “They are the ones caught red-handed selling or possessing illegal drugs and have resisted arrest. We have no other recourse but to use necessary force proportionate to the force they used against us,” he said.

“PDEA respects everyone’s right to life. However, without hesitation, we would breach that right in order to safeguard the life of others,” the PDEA chief concluded, adding that in the battleground, the real killers are illegal drugs, because they destroy a person’s mind, body and spirit.

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