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NBI also back in drug war

The NBI will again conduct anti-narcotics operations after the Philippine National Police (PNP) also resumed participation in the war on drugs as ordered by President Duterte earlier this week. FILE

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to resume its anti-illegal drug operations after a two-month hiatus during which the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) exclusively took over the war on drugs.

The NBI will again conduct anti-narcotics operations after the Philippine National Police (PNP) also resumed participation in the war on drugs as ordered by President Duterte earlier this week.

In Department Order No. 778 issued last Wednesday, Aguirre directed the NBI to resume its investigation and case buildup for violation of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

“The NBI through its director, Atty. Dante Gierran, is directed to submit a monthly report to the office undersigned on its current activities related to the implementation of this order,” the directive, which was effective immediately, read.

Aguirre revoked DO No. 670 that he issued last October directing the NBI to suspend its anti-narcotics operations due to Duterte’s order for exclusive jurisdiction of the PDEA over the war on drugs.

The Department of Justice chief, however, clarified that the PDEA “shall continue to be the overall lead agency in drug operations.”

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Apart from the PNP and the NBI, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Customs and Philippine Postal Corp. will also resume their operations in support of the anti-illegal drug campaign under RA 9165, as per a memorandum order that Duterte issued last Tuesday.

The directive superseded the President’s memorandum last October, which directed the “NBI, PNP or any and all anti-illegal drugs task force to yield to the PDEA as the sole agency in the conduct of operations of all those who are involved in or connected to illegal drugs.”

Duterte noted that while PDEA has made significant strides in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, the agency “has been seriously hampered in performing its huge mandate by lack of resources, specifically agents and operatives who can penetrate drug-infested areas down to the municipal and barangay levels.”

The earlier measure to assign the PDEA as the sole agency to take charge in the war on drugs was implemented to pinpoint accountability of the PNP following allegations that summary killings of drug suspects were perpetrated by policemen.

Since the implementation of the war on drugs by the Duterte administration in July 2016, the PNP has recorded about 3,900 deaths of drug suspects during its anti-narcotics operations.

But human rights groups have contested the figure and estimated the drug war killings at around 13,000.

Strict vetting of personnel

As this developed, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Oscar Albayalde ordered all district directors to strictly implement the vetting process of personnel to be assigned to the Drug Enforcement Unit to ensure that police officers are trained, qualified and disciplined to handle the war on drugs.

Albayalde issued the directive while waiting for the guidelines from PNP National Headquarters on the assumption of the organization in the anti-illegal drug campaign.

With the order, the police can now join anti-drug raids but have to coordinate their actions with the PDEA.

Albayalde reiterated the NCRPO’s commitment to not repeat the previous lapses during the implementation of the campaign.

He directed all operatives to wear body cameras in conducting police operations, particularly those related to illegal drugs.

“In the absence of a body camera, a videographer or cameraman will be designated. If none, a barangay chairman or the media will be invited to join the operations,” he noted, as he vowed to continue the strengthened internal cleansing of his office.

“We will not hesitate to send another batch of police officers to the Focused Reformation/Reorientation and Moral Enhancement (FORM) if that is what’s needed to correct their lapses,” Albayalde said.

“We shall also continue other refresher courses on human rights laws and police operational procedures needed by our police officers,” he said.

Albayalde gave assurance that the NCRPO will continue its unrelenting fight against criminality to ensure a safe and secure region for the benefit of the populace.

“The war on drugs is not ours alone; it is also the public’s, hence, we solicit their support. We also ask the (local government units) to commit to supporting the police, especially on logistical needs so that together we fight this drug menace,” he concluded.

PNP OKs spot reports

Meanwhile, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Chito Gascon said the PNP has agreed to provide spot reports on suspected extrajudicial killing cases that the commission wants to investigate.

“Last week, the (PNP) sent us a letter saying that they were prepared to give us spot reports, not case folders,” Gascon told The STAR in an interview on the sidelines of the launching ceremonies of the Civil Society Organizations-CHR Consultation Causes for Human Rights or C4HR yesterday afternoon.

“So it’s partially responsive,” he added.

Last August, Gascon had a dialogue with top PNP officials including its chief, Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, where he requested for full information and case folders on certain alleged extrajudicial killing cases that the CHR was looking into.

In response, the PNP officials said they wanted to comply with the request but they had to get clearance to do so. Subsequently, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy declared that he was declining to issue the requested clearance.

Gascon said the PNP letter was welcome, considering the DILG’s earlier refusal to give clearance.

“But we will take whatever they are prepared to give us while we continue to press for full freedom to access official documents,” he said. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rainier Allan Ronda

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