Police in the Philippines have begun conducting door-to-door drug tests in hopes of discovering cannabis users and more.
Since June, the residents in Lupang Pangako in Barangay Payatas (a barangay is the smallest Filipino administrative district) have had law enforcement come to their door to demand urine samples on the spot. Police then use over-the-counter drug tests on the samples and immediately confront anyone who tests positive.
Police have reportedly been roaming the streets with lists of presumed users, systematically working their way through the fifth most populous of the country’s 42,000 barangays. When they get to the home of someone on their list, everyone in the residence is required to provide samples to the officers. In Payatas. the master list is 4,595 names of people suspected of using drugs as of June 18. According to reports, some have been arrested, some surrendered and some have been killed. Payatas also borders the two largest barangays in the country, Commonwealth and Batasan Hills, and some believe the effects of the drug trade in these population centers have also brought down extra scrutiny locally.
All residents can do is smile and get to peeing, any other reaction might put them on the wrong side of the law. This month has been particularly brutal with the summary executions picking up new steam as Rodrigo Duterte entered his second year as president. Law enforcement operations in Bulacan resulted in 32 dead in just one night on Aug. 15, while 21 were killed in Manila, and seven in Cavite, also in a single night. Police have killed 4,351 “drug personalities” in the past year and arrested 96,703 more, following an average of over 170 anti-drug operations every day, according to the National Police.
On the night in which 32 people were put to death Duterte noted, “That’s beautiful, We just kill another 32 every day, maybe we can reduce what’s wrong in this country.”
During the raid that night the police seized 786 grams of marijuana.
The recent death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos has brought the drug war in the Philippines under new public scrutiny. Police claimed that he’d been carrying a handgun and he pulled it on them forcing them to shoot him. This is a popular excuse for police partaking in the drug war’s executions and is now called by the phrase “nanlaban,” which translates roughly to “they fought back.”
Once the video was released showing police dragging Santos away to his death tempers flared and Duterte was on the defensive. Witnesses said officers dragged the teenager to a basketball court, handed him a gun and told him to run. They shot him twice in the head as he complied with their orders, supposedly.
The vast majority of those killed by police under Duterte were claimed to be resisting arrest.
Morgan Fox, a senior communications manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, pointed to the upheaval over Santos’s death as a sign people were becoming less accepting of Duterte’s crackdown, but isn’t holding his breath.
Despite continued progress for cannabis users in the U.S., Fox believes it will take some time for cannabis rights to matter abroad.
“Traditionally, the U.S. has been a cheerleader for staunch international drug conventions, in some cases even suppressing data that supports more lenient harm-reduction approaches and that could steer the international community away from draconian criminal justice tactics,” Fox said. “Given that the current administration has not been critical of Duterte’s death squads and has made targeting drug traffickers a key part of its security policy, I don’t see us taking the lead on drug policy civil rights violations in other countries.”
Longtime cannabis researcher Dr. Amanda Reiman said the new door-to-door drug testing effort in the Philippines is alarming.
“The idea that police in the Philippines could enter your home, invade your privacy and possibly arrest you based on what you put in your body is alarming and in complete violation of human rights,” Reiman said.
But, according to her, we also may not want to point fingers.
“Given that we also do that in the United States, I am not sure we can act high and mighty on this one. However, every country, including the U.S., should be speaking out against the bloodshed in the Philippines in the name of drug control policy,” said Reiman.
The United States’ top law enforcement official, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, promoted a 1990s Alabama bill to establish mandatory death sentences for a second drug trafficking conviction, including for dealing marijuana.
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