Police’s drug war to remain relentless throughout Holy Week

Human rights advocates protest drug war in 2017. (Photo: Mark Demayo/ABS-CBN News)
Human rights advocates protest drug war in 2017. (Photo: Mark Demayo/ABS-CBN News)

It may be Holy Week, a season known for self-reflection and repentance, but it looks like the Philippine National Police (PNP) will remain relentless when it comes to its war on drugs. That’s what PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde assured during a press conference earlier today.

“We will not relent on our campaign against illegal drugs even if it’s Holy Week,” he said.

This, even though he said that they will deploy more than 91,000 personnel — almost half the members of the force — to public areas frequented by crowds during the holiday, such as big churches.

Holy Week is observed by Catholics all over the world to remember the passion and death of Jesus Christ. This year, it started yesterday (Palm Sunday) and will culminate this coming Sunday, April 21, with the celebration of Easter.

Albayalde said that they have police officers dedicated to the war on drugs who will continue to concentrate on it this week.

“They will not be deployed or be used in some other duties except for their work on anti-illegal drug operations,” Albayalde said.

As of the end of January, PNP data shows that the anti-narcotics crackdown has killed 5,176 people since it launched in July 2016. However, the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights has said that the number could actually be as big as 27,000.

Many died in summary executions or without the benefit of a full and fair trial — not unlike Jesus’ crucifixion, a story that is is being honored by a majority of Filipinos this week.

“Even before, even two years back or last year, we did not stop [the drug war] even during Lenten season,” the police chief said.

He also said that they’ll work even harder this year, referencing President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement alleging that the supply of drugs in the country has been getting worse.

However, the police chief clarified that officers can participate in religious activities as long as they don’t interfere with their jobs.

The Philippines usually has an almost week-long holiday during Holy Week and many observe it by attending special Lenten church services.

This includes Visita Iglesia on Maundy Thursday, a pilgrimage that has participants visiting seven churches to pray to the Blessed Sacrament. Many also light candles and attend street processions throughout the week and celebrate Easter vigils on the evening of Black Saturday. It’s also not uncommon for some devotees to recreate Jesus’ passion and resort to extreme activities like self-flagellation and even crucifixion.

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