Tuesday| July 4, 2017
Despite allegations of human rights violations, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers on Monday said the government's approach to combating illegal drugs can be used as a model for other countries to emulate.
"Yes, I think so," Barbers told reporters in a media briefing at the House of Representatives when asked about the matter.
Barbers, chair of the House of Representatives' committee on dangerous drugs, is a member of the Philippine delegation to the 13th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) Fact-Finding Committee (AIFOCOM) to Combat the Drug Menace, which will be held from July 4 to 8 in Pasay City.
During the meeting, Barbers said the Philippines will have the chance to share information with the other nine AIPA member-states, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, on possible ways to address the drug menace in their respective countries.
"We’re just lucky because being the host country this year with a President being serious in addressing the problem of drugs, we’ll now have the perfect venue in which to share information with other ASEAN member countries with respect to the drug problem and its solution within the country and the ASEAN member countries," he said.
During the media briefing, Barbers stressed that the human rights violations arising from the war on drugs are not committed by the Duterte administration.
"Well, of course we cannot discount the fact that there are human rights violations. [But these] are perpetuated by some corrupt officials of the law enforcement agencies," he said.
"The human rights violations [are] definitely not coming from a direct order from the President. This is probably the result of some eager beaver PNP (Philippine National Police) officers running after all these drug lords and drug pushers," he continued.
The Duterte administration has earned the criticisms from some quarters for its bloody campaign against illegal drugs, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands since it began in July last year.
But to Barbers, claims of human rights violations "are just a product of the imagination of those who are against the campaign on drugs."
"This is a war. And as you all know, if there is a war, there are collateral damages. And maybe, just maybe, some of them will probably think that it was intended or was done on purpose, which it was not," he added.
Barbers said countries should be "aggressive" in addressing their problems on illegal drugs.
"Well, I'm not going to advise them to kill if needed. But what perhaps I will advise them is that to be aggressive and bold and brazen in the fight against drugs," he said.
"The enemy here is not an ordinary enemy. They will kill you. They are more aggressive than any law enforcement agency in the country. So we have to fight them head-on," he added.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who is also the AIPA president, will deliver the opening remarks in the AIFOCOM meeting.