Police may resume lead role in drug war despite criticism

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday warned that the police will resume their lead role in his war on drugs if the problem worsens, saying nobody, not even US President Donald Trump, can stop his campaign.

Under heavy criticism for the police killing of minors in anti-drug operations, Duterte ordered the Philippine National Police to withdraw from the campaign and gave the lead role to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in October.

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino, however, said last month that his agency does not have enough personnel to carry out the war on drugs with the same intensity.

Duterte’s war on drugs has killed thousands of suspected drug users and peddlers.

“If human rights [advocates] are thinking that Trump or whoever the human rights [advocates believe] can stop me, I’m sorry,” Duterte said in a speech at a business event in his hometown Davao City.

“The drug problem, if it becomes worse again, the police have to enter the picture. I want it eradicated if possible,” he said.

Duterte has drawn international criticism for the deaths of 3,900 people in police anti-drug operations in the last 15 months, but police deny allegations that the killings were summary executions.

The PNP said they had to use deadly force in each case because the suspects were armed and had resisted arrest—something they also said when they killed Kian Lloyd delos Santos, 17, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, and Reynaldo de Guzman, 14.

Trump, who was in Manila recently for a summit of Asian and Western nations, did not apply any pressure over the drugs war on Duterte, with whom he said he had a “great relationship.”

However, Duterte attacked Canada’s Justin Trudeau at the end of the summit for raising questions about human rights and summary executions under the anti-narcotics campaign.

The Justice department, meanwhile, has approved the renewed partnership between the PDEA and the Bureau of Corrections to check the proliferation of illegal drugs inside prisons and penal farms.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it. As a matter of fact, it is good,” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said, referring to the signing of a memorandum of agreement on Tuesday for continued cooperation between the two agencies to implement anti-drug laws.

“We all know that before President Rodrigo Duterte took office, around 70 to 75 percent of illegal drugs in the country were cooked at the national penitentiary,” Aguirre added.

The MOA extended the previous agreement between PDEA and BuCor dated March 25, 2015 aimed at effectively addressing the trafficking and other illegal activities relative to dangerous drugs.

The two agencies also agreed to set up the PDEA Liaison and Coordinating Office inside the NBP, which will have a canine unit that can conduct regular drug sweeps.

The PDEA reported that it conducted a total of 1,341 anti-drug operations from Oct. 10 to Nov. 10 this year, resulting in the arrest of 404 drug suspects and the seizure of dangerous drugs worth P53.83 million.

Aquino attributed the achievement to the shift of the agency’s operational thrusts to reduce the number of high-value targets through the conduct of high-impact and quality counter-drug operations.

“This is 80.5 percent more than the operations conducted in the previous month. As a result, a 14.4 percent increase in the number of arrested drug personalities was recorded,” Aquino said.

The total value of dangerous drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals seized during the period posted a 233.3 percent more than the preceding month.

“Out of the seized drug evidence, 6.16 kilograms are methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, with an estimated street value of P30.8 million, as compared to the shabu seizure of 1.87 kilograms worth P9,350,000, confiscated last month, an increase of 229.4 percent,” Aquino added.

The consolidated figures were the result of the arrest of high-value targets and high-volume seizures during the following operations in the cities of Taguig, Parañaque, Mandaluyong, Naga and Kawit. With PNA

“Failure was never an option when we took upon the sole authority in bringing order to country’s anti-drug campaign. We may be undermanned, under-equipped and underfunded, but we continually strive to achieve more than what is expected,” Aquino said. With PNA