INTERESTINGLY, the Right to Life paradigm is not inconsistent with the aims of the War on Drugs. As explained in the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Handbook (chapter on “Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officials).
“In fact, under human rights law, States’ duty to respect and to ensure the right to life entails an obligation to exercise ‘due diligence’ to protect the lives of individuals from attacks by criminals, including terrorists. Lethal force under human rights law is legal if it is strictly and directly necessary to save life.”
Ostensibly, I think it is safe to assume that those who blatantly and unapologetically harm us and destroy our way of life have lost their right to live in our community. Nevertheless, it is still incumbent upon the administration to convince the public that in conducting the War on Drugs, they are exercising “due diligence” to respect the right to life of all citizens.
Merely claiming that this is a policy they are abiding with is not enough. They must present demonstrable acts that unequivocally evince efforts to protect the people’s right to life.
I think the number of doubters will significantly diminish if public prosecutors show that they are aggressively pursuing the persons responsible for the lives lost and destroyed in the name of the War on Drugs. The plain fact is whatever label you tack on these deaths, they are crimes that need to be prosecuted to the hilt. Getting the perpetuators is the only way for justice to be served.
I predict as well that many critics of the administration’s anti-drug strategy will be silenced if the Public Attorney’s Office establish a visible relentless effort in ensuring the constitutional rights of indigent drug suspects are respected by members of the police force.
More importantly, if the office likewise shows that violators of these rights will be held to account in court. Not allowing the police to run rampant with authority is key in protecting the people’s right to life.
No Filipino would ever want to return to the dark days of the Metrocom. The notable activism of the Commission Human Rights in engaging with the War on Drugs is a reminder that we are not there yet. And to a certain extent, it is also an assurance that it is still possible we will never ever get to that point at all.
I must mention though, that the silence of specific agencies within the executive branch that are tasked to enforce constitutional rights, such as the right to life, only diminishes the legitimacy of the President’s anti-drug campaign.
The leaders of these offices should bear mind that no Filipino wants this administration to lose this particular war.--Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, LL.M