Philippines can learn from Batanes’ bloodless drug-menace solution, says bishop

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THE DRUG menace in Batanes was controlled without bloodshed, and the rest of the Philippines can learn from it, Batanes Bishop Camilo Gregorio Diaz told the Varsitarian.

Diaz said the drug cases in Batanes decreased even before President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration launched an all-out war against drugs.

“Before itong ‘Oplan Tokhang’ (Operation ‘Knock and Plead’), we were very concerned about the drug problem in Batanes kasi laganap na. We did something without waiting for Duterte,” Diaz said in an interview with the Varsitarian.

Diaz praised the previous Aquino administration for fighting drugs without killing drug users and suspects. “They (Aquino administration) did a good job. Walang mga killings. Pag-aarest lang [`yung ginawa nila],” he said.

He said the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) “Oplan Tokhang,” in which police visits and raids often ended up with the operatives killing drug suspects supposedly in self-defense, was non-existent in Batanes.

“It is currently more controlled with the reinforcement of President Duterte in office. I [can] claim that we have had no killings there until now,” Diaz added.

Senior Supt. Edgardo Pamittan, former director of the Batanes Provincial Police Force, confirmed Diaz’s statement that there were no extrajudicial killings in Batanes.

Pamittan denied allegations of police involvement in summary killings.

“The police would never condone killings. We also lose men during police operations, these are just for rebellious acts against the government,” he said in a phone interview.

Role of the Catholic Church

Diaz stressed the importance of the Catholic Church, as it contributes to the morality and spirituality of the Filipino people.

“Hindi nakikita ng gobyerno ang magagawa ng Simbahan Katolika, for the good and the welfare of the people. Masyado silang natatabunan ng material things, and we know from history na it never worked when God is out. Things don’t work out well when God is out,” Diaz said.

Diaz also maintained that death penalty would not solve the drug and criminality problem in the country.

“We see the practical urge to solve the problem [quickly], and through that we are tempted,” the bishop said.

He called on the Duterte administration to end impunity among police officials in anti-drug raids.

“[They] rationalized that the suspects fight back, but I think it is being abused,” he said.

He urged the PNP to adopt the spiritual concept of “restorative justice.”

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