Duterte bringing PNP back to drug war

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte bringing PNP back to drug war

President Duterte test fires one of the sniper rifles donated by the Chinese government during sniping capability training by troops at Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija the other day.

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte is bringing the police back to the government’s war on illegal drugs because he is not satisfied with the accomplishments of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said he is giving back to the police the lead role in the anti-drug campaign to prevent the problem from deteriorating.

“Because the President returned it (to the police), he must not be satisfied. He wants more,” Roque said in a press briefing.

“I think a decision will soon be made. But like you said, he did make the statement that, ‘I may have to return it to the police to avoid the problem from worsening,’” he added.

Roque said Duterte has given PDEA enough time to address the drug menace.

A total of 117,268 drug personalities were arrested and 78,619 anti-drug operations were conducted from July to November, according to PDEA data.

Some 2,525.77 kilos of shabu or methamphetamine worth P18.9 billion were seized in the same period.

The agency has also declared 4,295 barangays drug-cleared since July.

Duterte barred the Philippine National Police (PNP) from interfering with the drug war after two teenage suspects died at the hands of Caloocan policemen last August.

Policemen claimed that Kian delos Santos, 17, was a drug runner who fought with arresting officers but witnesses said the teenager was executed.

Carl Arnaiz, 19, was shot dead after robbing taxi driver Tomas Bagcal, who later disowned the affidavits attributed to him.

Duterte has said PDEA may not be able to address the drug problem because it lacks personnel.

The PNP was the lead agency in the drug war since President Duterte assumed office in July 2016.

Last February, however, the President removed the power from the police to go after drug suspects after some policemen were linked to a series of “tokhang for ransom” and the murder of Korean Jee Ick-Joo right inside Camp Crame in October 2016.

After a month, the President again tapped the PNP, claiming the drug problems continued.

Duterte again ordered the PNP to keep off the drug war after the killings of the teenaged drug suspects that were seen as a factor that caused a significant drop in his trust rating.

PNP deputy spokesman Supt. Vimelee Madrid said the police is already updating its watchlist on high-value targets in the illegal drug trade. “On the drug war, the PNP is always ready, always ready to embrace any task given by our Chief Executive,” Madrid said in a press briefing yesterday. President Duterte said on Wednesday that he has no choice but to bring back the PNP to his drug war.

Madrid said the PNP has started plans to revise the war on drugs, but refused to elaborate pending the actual announcement of the President. He said the PNP will try to implement a less bloody drug war, though police operatives have to defend themselves in case they are attack by drug suspects.

Since President Duterte ordered the PNP off the war on drugs last month, Madrid said the PNP has resolved 1,000 of the 10,000 cases in six weeks. “We really mean business in the investigation so we can give justice to whom it is due,” she added.

PDEA welcomes order

PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino welcomed the return of the PNP to anti-drug operations.

“There is a possibility that drugs will worsen without the other law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Aquino said he does not view Duterte’s pronouncements to bring back the PNP as dissatisfaction with PDEA’s performance, but rather a president’s action as he knows the limitations of the agency.

“I can prove to the President that the PDEA did not fail based on our accomplishments and what we have done in the past month. We never failed but it is good to hear that the PNP is getting back because the PDEA is undermanned,” the PDEA chief said.

Since Duterte issued the order designating PDEA as the sole agency in the drug war last month, Aquino has always said that he prefers that the PNP and other law enforcement agencies join the fight against drugs.

However, Aquino, a retired police general himself, advised the leadership of the PNP to sit down and “reconsider strategies” in the implementation of their anti-illegal drug operations amid allegations of abuse and extrajudicial killings.

He noted that the allegations of extrajudicial killings were the reason why the President issued the order last Oct. 11, which directed the PNP, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Corp. and other agencies to refrain from spearheading drug operations to avoid conflict.

International human rights advocates yesterday warned the people of more extrajudicial killings in the country once President Duterte orders the police to resume the lead the government’s deadly war against illegal drugs.

Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia Division, said the resumption of police anti-drug operations was not unexpected.

Duterte didn’t specify when he might order the police to resume anti-drugs operations that Human Rights Watch research has linked to numerous extrajudicial executions by police and their agents. - Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rhodina Villanueva, Romina Cabrera

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