In a police reshuffle, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed avid supporters of his war-on-drugs campaign to top positions, fuelling concern among human rights groups that his bloody anti-drug crackdown is set to continue
Oscar Albayalde has been given the job of national police chief, vowing to continue the war on drugs and the implementation of the controversial anti-drug operation “Double Barrel”, which targets both the people at the top of the illegal drugs trade as well as those peddling drugs on the streets.
“We will not relent on our war against illegal drugs and other forms of criminality. The drug menace, we must all understand, is a worldwide phenomenon,” Albayalde said in a speech. “We will help and support each other to fight and win this war.”
Duterte’s aggressive plan to eradicate illegal drugs from the country has come under heavy criticism from the international community. Human Rights Watch claim that more than 12,000 people have been killed during the campaign, many of those extrajudicial killings.
The European Parliament echoed these concerns, and this week adopted a resolution calling on the Philippines to end extrajudicial killings, release a detained senator and take human rights defenders off its list of terrorists.
In a statement, the EU Parliament said it “strongly condemns the high number of extrajudicial killings, sends its condolences to the victims’ families and expresses grave concern over reports that the Philippine National Police is falsifying evidence to justify extrajudicial killings, which target mostly the poor”.
This comes on the back of a preliminary examination launched last month by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as it seeks to establish whether Duterte should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. Duterte responded by announcing that he would withdraw the Philippines from the ICC.
On finding out about his new role, Albayalde told news website Rappler that he was very happy.
“I am elated the president, no less than the president, gave me his trust and confidence,” he told the online news site. “It’s really a big surprise, first because I am not from Davao. I was told I was being considered, but I didn’t have any Davao connection.”
Albayalde was formerly in charge of Metro Manila, where many of the drug-related killings have taken place. His previous position will be assumed by Camilo Cascolan, who was based in the Davao region during and after Duterte’s 22-year tenure as mayor of the city. Cascolan is known as the architect of the Double Barrel plan, according to Reuters.
Cascolan will be replaced by Mao Aplasca, who is also from the Davao region.