SC Justice: Why is gov't 'practically ignoring' big-time drug lords?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — A Supreme Court justice on Tuesday questioned why the Philippine National Police (PNP)'s anti-illegal drug operations were "practically ignoring" big-time drug lords.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio asked Solicitor General Jose Calida why the drug war was focused on small-time drug peddlers and not the bulk smugglers. Carpio made note of the P6.4-billion shipment of methampetamine hydrochloride from China which easily slipped through the Bureau of Customs in May.

"Can you explain to me why PNP in this circular 16-2016 is concentrating on street-level operations, and is practically ignoring the big-time drug lords," Carpio said on the last day of the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on the war on drugs.

"Almost every time that we meet, we affirm the conviction in a drug case. And almost always, we convict a pusher or a user, mostly pushers. There are very few — I can remember only one drug lord, and he's not even a big-time drug lord because he is not a Filipino-Chinese or Chinese drug lord as convicted by the court," Carpio added.

Calida replied, saying President Rodrigo Duterte's instructions is to go after all drug personalities.

"The big-time Chinese drug lords are outside of our jurisdiction your Honor. They are in China," Calida said.

The Solicitor General added the entry of drugs in the Philippines is difficult to police because of the country's geography. He said Chinese syndicates and smugglers meet at sea to sneak drugs into the country.

"We cannot police an archipelago. There are so many places that can be transported to," Calida said.  

The Command Memorandum Circular 16-2016, or the Oplan Double Barrel, was the PNP's main strategy to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.

The hearing on the oral arguments for and against the drug war took place as President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered the return of the PNP to the anti-illegal drug operations, although they will be supervised by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

READ: Duterte allows police to go back to drug war

The PDEA was designated since October as the lead agency in the war against drugs amid allegations of human rights violations and corruption among some of the police force.

Calida noted that the Oplan Double Barrel memorandum also noted that syndicates from the Filipino-Chinese community in the Philippines and drug lords from mainland China dominate the smuggling of illegal drugs in the country.

But when Carpio asked how many of the 3,806 killed in legitimate police operations were Chinese or Filipino-Chinese drug lords, the government's lead counsel said  only 419 Chinese nationals were arrested, but not killed.

The Supreme Court Associate Justice then ordered to submit the names of all those who were killed in the PNP's drug operations as well as details on the officials involved, the suspect's addresses, among others.

Calida was representing PNP Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa and PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino. The Solicitor General said the two were in New York to attend an anti-terrorism conference.

Human rights groups believe the alleged extrajudicial killings when the PNP led the drug war since July 2016 may be as high as 13,000.