Deathly targets in 2020
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - January 1, 2020 - 12:00am

He may sound like a broken record but President Rodrigo Duterte knows what he’s talking about in repeatedly saying the illegal drugs menace remains a “big problem” in the country. For the nth time last Monday, President Duterte ranted on the government’s seeming failure up to now to break the back of the nefarious illegal drugs trade in the country.

Two days before bidding goodbye to the year 2019, the President virtually admitted his anti-drug campaign has lost its steam and he is not happy about it. The President is obviously more furious than dismayed to realize his bloody war against illegal drugs still has not stopped the impunity of drug traffickers. After two and a half years into office, the Chief Executive reiterated his “kill” order to all anti-drug enforcement authorities to spare no one.

“I am warning you again, be it the police, the mayors or the barangay captains: You will die. If you get involved in drugs, there is no other way to deal with you, except to kill you,” the President vowed during his visit to earthquake survivors in M’lang, North Cotabato.

The former Davao City Mayor, however, seemed to have given up in updating his vaunted matrix of narco list that he has drawn up when his administration first launched his all out war against illegal drugs. The controversial matrix is supposed to contain the names of certain politicians who include several mayors and congressmen, barangay officials, rogue cops and soldiers, among them. Although some names were already leaked to the public, the narco list matrix has noticeably faded out into limbo.

At least 5,552 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed for allegedly resisting arrest since President Duterte took office in July 2016. For the same period, a total of 8,185 high-value targets in the drug war have been arrested, including 297 elected officials, 347 government employees and 82 members of the uniformed service. Also arrested were 222 foreigners and 10 celebrities. The rest were other high-profile leaders and members of drug syndicates, members of private armed groups and drug den maintainers.

The so-called “real numbers” on the results of the Duterte administration’s anti-drug war were culled from the reports of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), among the principal law enforcement authorities directly involved in it.

Local and international human rights groups, however, question the accuracy of the so-called “real numbers” and insist on previous media reports that the bulk of casualties were extrajudicial killings (EJKs). It came to a head when a Resolution initiated by Iceland was approved in July last year by the United Nations Human Rights Council to launch an independent investigation into alleged EJK crimes committed during the Philippine government’s war on drugs.

As a result of which the Philippines threatened to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council. Earlier, the Philippines withdrew its membership from the International Criminal Court over the same EJK accusations against President Duterte.

As early as October last year, the President could not hide his personal displeasure over the slack in his administration’s war on drugs. This despite the fact he has assumed full responsibility and accountability over the huge number of casualties in the anti-drug operations conducted by the police and other law enforcement agencies.

It reached the point wherein President Duterte, out of exasperation perhaps, suddenly named Vice President Leni Robredo to co-chair the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD). This was after the Vice President sharply scored the government’s anti-drug war is not succeeding any.

It apparently struck a raw nerve of the 74-year-old Mayor who has dedicated his presidency to crush the illegal drugs problem in the Philippines at all cost.

As originally created, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino chairs the ICAD. But 17 days after her designation last month as ICAD co-chair, the President “fired” VP Robredo and reverted to the existing set-up at the ICAD.

Although he did not offer any excuse or reason, the President echoed anew lately his dismay over the slack in the anti-drug war. This is detectable in his decision not to name up to now his new PNP Director General. During that same gathering last Monday, the President disclosed he has asked Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año to take charge of the PNP until he could name who would be the country’s new top cop. He ordered Año to fix the problems in the PNP, citing his concern there are officers who are involved in corruption and illegal drugs.

The President designated Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa as officer-in-charge (OIC) of the PNP last Oct. 14 following the unceremonious exit of erstwhile PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde. Before he could gracefully exit at the mandatory age of retirement on his 55th birthday last Nov. 8, Albayalde opted to step down from his post at the height of the controversial Senate inquiry into the “ninja cops” case.

Albayalde and Gamboa are classmates of ex-PNP chief and now Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1986. While he personally knew Bato who once served as police chief while he was still Mayor of Davao City, the President relied on the latter when he recommended Albayalde to succeed him upon retirement from the PNP in April 2018.

In a recent television interview, President Duterte explained why he wants a “better deal” in selecting the next PNP chief. The President had admitted having difficulties selecting the next chief of the 180,000-strong police force because he was cautious about corruption that taints leadership at the PNP.

President Duterte has made no bones he won’t hesitate to appoint someone to become as his new top cop if that aspirant could guarantee that all drug lords would die under his watch. Given such deathly targets in 2020, who would come forward to become the new PNP chief?

Happy new year to one and all!

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