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PDEA vows to ‘do more with less’ in drug war

MANILA, Philippines — Despite being “undermanned, under equipped and inadequately funded,” the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) yesterday assured the public that it will strive to deliver on the high expectations of President Duterte in the war on drugs.

PDEA director general Aaron Aquino said his agency will have to “do more with less,” as it was designated by the Chief Executive last week as the “sole agency” to take the lead in the administration’s centerpiece campaign against illegal drugs. 

“We will not let the public down. We will deliver what is expected of us,” Aquino said in a statement.

Aquino said the war on drugs under his agency will be less bloody and will “follow the rule of law,” after Duterte, in an Oct. 10 memorandum, directed other law enforcement agencies to refrain from spearheading drug operations to avoid conflict.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Bureau of Customs, the Philippine Postal Corp. and other agencies were directed to leave the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations to PDEA.

“PDEA is mandated to bring order to the national anti-drug campaign which sits alongside the precise accountability for it. However, some people are already diminishing (that) PDEA is doomed to fail even before it hardly gets its feet wet. We must do what is supposed to be done in the hope of silencing our critics,” Aquino said.

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The PDEA chief also thanked Malacañang for defending the anti-narcotics agency amid the alleged “vilification campaign” of human rights group Amnesty International, which said Duterte’s move could just be a “short-term” public relations stunt to appease the growing criticism on the drug war.

“All we need are words of support and encouragement, not minding the detractions that come PDEA’s way,” Aquino said. 

The PDEA is eyeing additional budget for pursuing the drug war as Aquino has admitted that they currently have limited manpower and equipage.

Aquino is currently in China to attend the Training Course on Law Enforcement in Fuzhou City in Fujian province until Oct. 27.

He led the Philippine delegation in the two-week training course on international cooperation program.

CHR backs PDEA

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has expressed support for the PDEA following the latter’s designation as the lead agency in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“We are hopeful that professionalism will govern PDEA in implementing the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and that the campaign against drugs will be carried out with strict adherence to the rule of law,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.  

“This development is an indication that the administration is willing to listen to public clamor for the observance of due process in its campaign against illegal drugs,” he added.

Duterte earlier removed the PNP from its campaign against illegal drugs following criticisms over incidents of alleged human rights violations.

The CHR was among the fiercest critics of the PNP, particularly in relation to the so-called nanlaban cases, where thousands were killed supposedly after fighting back during police operations. – With Janvic Mateo, Edith Regalado

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