“The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the police are essentially re-creating a hit list, and they are asking everyone to write it for them,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
Groups and netizens reacted against the ‘fishing expedition for illegal drug suspects and even innocent people’ when reports and photos circulated in media and the internet showing that these boxes have been installed at various barangay halls.
In the DILG Memorandum Circular 2017-112 or the Revised guidelines for the Mamamayang Ayaw sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Iligal na Droga (MASA MASID) program released on August 29, 2017, the DILG ordered the setting up of a drop box system in all local government units to serve as a reporting tool. The drop box was an addition to the hotline, which was the sole reporting tool specified in the memo that started the program in September 2016.
The MASA MASID program, according to its own rationale, “promotes community involvement on corruption, illegal drugs, criminality, violent extremism and other threats to peace and security.”
In the August 29 memo, the DILG cited that ‘significant changes as the project is being implemented’ called for the existing policy to be enhanced hence the release of the revised guidelines. In the revised guidelines, the changes observed were: the community based rehabilitation program was dropped and retained only advocacy and reporting as implementation strategies and activities; violent extremism and threats to peace and security were adopted among issues it wanted to address in engaging volunteers in the community ‘with the recent terrorism-related incidents’; and, the drop boxes installed in barangay halls, as well as e-mail, short messaging service (SMS) and direct reporting to any member of the MASA MASID Group (MMG) are the new reporting tools in addition to the hotline.
The revised guidelines was signed by DILG Officer-in-Charge Catalino Cuy. The DILG Memorandum Circular 2016-116 dated September 2, 2016 signed by then DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno initiated the MASA MASID program.
(This publication inquired with the DILG and the MASA MASID Project Management Office on the assessment in the first year of the implementation of MASA MASID and the rationale behind the changes and has yet to receive a reply as of this posting.)
Tool for targeting activists
“[The drop box] will be a random, irresponsible and ineffective campaign that can target anyone, not just suspected drug users but even activists and concerned citizens. Even without this drop box system, scores of people have already fallen victim to illegal arrests, how much more if such arbitrary measures are implemented? We have had previous reports of the drug war campaign being used to fast-track counterinsurgency operations, and this scheme will inevitably lead to more similar cases,” Palabay said.
Karapatan cited the recent case in Nueva Vizcaya wherein five farmers were illegally arrested by joint military and police elements, and charged with trumped-up cases last September 29, 2017, after being flagged down at a checkpoint. The farmers were members of Kasibu Inter-Tribal Response for Ecological Development (KIRED) & Samahang Pangkarapatan ng Katutubong Magsasaka at Manggagawa, Inc. (SAPAKKMMI), and were active in opposing the large-scale mining operations in the area.
Drug lists problematic, drop boxes even more so
“What is this ridiculous drug informants’ dropbox system? Police cannot use the names in the “drugs dropbox” as evidence against any person, because there is no guarantee of truthfulness or regularity in such information. At best, it may provide leads in investigations, but police have to verify and substantiate the allegation/s before using it in operations or in court. However, there is no compelling need for this system, not especially when every barangay has already drawn up its drug list, problematic as that may be,” said Atty. Kristina Conti of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) NCR in her Facebook account post.
Atty. Conti lambasted the government agency responsible for the drop boxes in her post:
“Kulang na ba ang listahan? Ubos na ba ang mga nasa drug list? Wala na kayong asset? Patay na ba lahat ng informant nyo? Wala na bang intel info? O baka di talaga kayo intelligent? PBB eviction night ang peg? Pabebe kayo?”
(Has the drug list ran short? Are all those in the drug list eliminated already? Do you no longer have assets? Are all your informants dead? Do you not have intel info? Or are you just not intelligent? Is this patterned after Pinoy Big Brother eviction night? Are you childish?)
The group of lawyers said they would study if there is enough basis to immediately challenge in court the DILG policy of drop boxes.
“It is another draconian snowball in the avalanche of dangerous shortcuts to fight crime and drugs. We might as well have drive-thru counters for good measure,” said NUPL President Atty. Edre Olalia in a statement.
Last month, the NUPL succeeded in putting a stop to random, involuntary, house-to-house drug testing conducted by various Quezon City police stations. They aimed to put a stop to such a practice elsewhere as they brought the police to court on the matter. The group also scored the Philippine National Police (PNP), again in Quezon City, for conducting random bag inspections in bars along Katipunan Avenue last month.
CHR opposes drop boxes for illegal drugs reporting
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also reacted against the drop boxes proposition.
In its statement in August, the CHR expressed its support for the “government’s campaign in combating the possible dangers brought about by the use, sale, production, and distribution of illegal drugs in the country” but said that the “manner of pursuing personalities involved in illegal drugs violates the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution.”
“The information collected through the “drop boxes” — while serves as tips or leads to the police — may expose an individual to mistaken arrest if the information is not verified and court processes are not involved. In the same way, residents of a house with no drug-free sticker may be unduly discriminated and/or tagged as drug-users/pushers without due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution. This also violates the right of any person to be heard before he/she is condemned. A person’s honor, as well as the reputation of his/her family, would also be harmed,” said a part of the CHR’s statement.
The commission said they would continue to be watchful of the measures and procedures implemented.
Reports to be validated
“That’s good, dahil we will be coming up with any information na hindi natin makukuha in any other means dahil nga takot nga ‘yung tao na magbigay ng impormasyon di ba?” said PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa of the drop boxes today.
(That’s good, because we will be coming up with information that we would not otherwise acquire because people are scared to give information, right?)
“Hindi naman ibig sabihin na lahat nang ilagay diyan sa drop box ay kinoconsider natin na totoo. That is why we have to validate that report,” Dela Rosa said.
(This does not mean that everything placed in the drop box will be considered true.)
In the revised guidelines, the Technical Working Group (TWG) of MASA MASID, headed by the city or municipality DILG Field Officer, was tasked to establish the modes of reporting, consolidate reports coursed through the modes of reporting and validate submitted reports. The MASA MASID Team (MMT) members, composed of the barangay chair, another barangay official and civil society organizations representatives, were the ones explicitly tasked in the memo to collect the reports coursed through the drop boxes for submission to the TWG. The memo did not say, however, how the reports would be validated.