Gov't orders anti-drug drop boxes nationwide

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 3) — The anti-drug drop box scheme in Quezon City may soon be implemented nationwide as the Interior Department wants the campaign institutionalized despite concerns it may be open to abuse.

Residents under the veil of anonymity can report those they suspect of using or peddling illegal drugs through drop boxes like the one in Barangay Valencia.

Authorities said the informant system is not only effective, but also promotes participatory governance.

 

"There's nothing sinister about that," Catalino Uy, officer in charge of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said,

Uy defended the initiative – and is pushing for its institutionalization.

"'Yung ibang opisina, yung ibang agency may mga suggestion box eh, we're just doing that," he said.

[Translation: Other offices, other agencies have suggestion boxes, we're just doing that.]

But the strategy stirred up a storm on social media a few months back, with netizens raising concerns it may be open to abuse.

Officials in Barangay Valencia admit some residents use the drop box to spite enemies over personal grudges, and said they have safeguards in place.

Eugene Gabor, a kagawad in Barangay Valencia said, "'Pag kinausap namin, at nagsabi silang hindi, sila mismo nago-offer, 'ah sir, baka galit lang sa akin 'yan,' ganito ganon. 'Gusto niyo mag drug test po tayo ngayon?'"

[Translation: When we talk to people and they said it wasn't them, they say 'ah sir, someone just might be mad at me. Do you want a drug test right now?]

The police in Barangay Valencia also takes offense on how social media made their campaign look sinister by calling it a death box.

PO1 Ramon Beltran from the Quezon City Police Department Station 7 said, "Parang napaka-imposible naman yon, kasi kami yung barangay na walang pinatay."

[Translation: That's almost impossible since we're a barangay where no one was killed.]

A number of provinces have replicated the campaign. Soon, it will be nationwide, courtesy of an Interior Department memo released in late August.

Critics are asking, with the billions of pesos of taxpayers' money going to the government's intel fund every year, why pass the job on the citizens?

A bad idea?

Senator Risa Hontiveros slammed the idea of the drop boxes, saying it was "foolish and dangerous."

In a statement, Hontiveros called it a "drug box tokhang" that was "prone to malice and abuse."

"It is unilateral and arbitrary. Lacking any credible system for vetting, case-building and exacting accountability, any name can be written down and dropped in the said drop box," she added.

"The individuals whose names are written on pieces of paper could also become vulnerable to threats from vigilante groups. What would stop extrajudicial killers and vigilante groups from breaking the drop boxes and getting the submitted names?" Hontiveros said.

In a statement, rights group Karapatan says the campaign is "essentially creating a hit-list, and authorities are asking everyone to write it for them."

It added, the tactic is arbitrary and promotes unnecessary paranoia.

And a lawyers group says it is studying whether the program violates due process, and may question it before the courts.

"We will study forthwith whether this open violation and threat to the rights to due process and presumption of innocence has reached the legal level," said the National Union of People's Lawyers.