Call center agent finds himself in drug watchlist, has to wait for 3 months to get “delisted”

An Ateneo Human Rights Center lawyer, Arpee Santiago, posted on Facebook about how he has helped a call center agent who suddenly found himself the subject of Oplan TokHang by his community’s police force.

“Two nights ago, I assisted a 26-year old call center agent who found himself in his community police precinct’s drug watchlist in Manila. He mentioned that earlier this month, a couple of police officers went to his house in the guise that he was involved in a hit-and-run incident and wanted to invite him to the police station,” Santiago posted.

The lawyer added that when the police came knocking, the call center agent was fortunately not home, so he had to go to the barangay to clear his name. He found out that his name was on the list because of some anonymous tip that he is a drug user and a pusher. He fortunately was able to get a certification from the barangay that he was clear of any suspicion of being linked to drugs and went to the police station for the same mission.

But that’s where the problem started.

“At the police station, he was told that if he really wanted to clear his name, he had to fill out the ‘surrender form.’ In the form, he only had 2 choices: either he is a user or a pusher. He refused as he never got involved with any illegal drug,” the lawyer said.

“After much pleading, the police officer relented but asked him to fill out a personal data sheet which asked for all his personal circumstances and details, including the name of his parents. He refused as he was afraid to give a lot of details very personal to all of us. So he left,” the lawyer added to his narration.

But the call center agent feared for his life as a potential target of vigilante groups and that was when he came to Santiago for help.

Accompanied by the lawyer, they went to the police station and learned that the “intel” the police received about the call center agent was not really intel, but unverified information or chismis that can never amount to an intelligence report.


“Thankfully, the intel officer acted quickly the first time the guy went to the station. Based on his background check (and intel ops), he is “negative,” Santiago said.

“In short, the info that the police has is simply wrong,” he added.

Asking if his client can be delisted from the list, the police officers said that the call center agent has to wait for three months.

“Can he then be delisted from the drug watch list? Hell, no. At least not yet. He has to wait for maybe 3 months since the list has been forwarded to higher headquarters and the stations are pressured to follow through and “clean” the list,” Santiago said of the delisting process.

Santiago had to get the personal assurance of the police and intel officer to delist his client and told them that he would hold them accountable for his client’s safety.

He then addressed how his client had to sort out this mess because of “sloppy” intel work on the part of the police.

“I felt happy for my guy. But I feel sad for the other innocent persons dragged into this because of sloppy police intelligence work,” Santiago said.

“And it is very scary nowadays to be mistakenly included,” he added.

He also said the thought of having some people he knew to be included in the drug watchlist just so they would realize how easy it is to be wrongfully accused, but backtracked on that idea.

“But on second thought, I don’t want this insecurity suffered even by my enemies. I don’t want to risk their lives just so they will realize that the threat is real,” Santiago wrote.

Santiago said that he only wished for a lawful and safe method in curbing illegal drugs, something that will not put innocent people’s lives at risk because “every life counts.”

“I am writing this post for us to find lawful and safe solutions to these illegal drugs and criminality. No person in his or her right mind ever supported these. And when we talk of human rights, it does not mean that we support criminals,” he said, probably referring to how many netizens automatically brand you a coddler of drug pushers and users if you defend human rights.

“I simply want a system that no innocent person will fall in the cracks of our justice system. It is simply not a numbers game. Every life counts. That is the kind of humanity I learned to love and grow up with. That is the kind of compassion my faith has also taught me,” Santiago added.

As of writing, the post has been shared 8,012 times since it was posted on August 25.

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