Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Side­lines Po­lice in War on Drugs, Again


MANILA (Dis­patches) - Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has or­dered po­lice to halt ac­tiv­i­ties in his deadly war on drugs and leave all op­er­a­tions to the drug en­force­ment agency, amid un­prece­dented scru­tiny of po­lice con­duct.

Duterte’s of­fice on Wednesday made pub­lic a me­moran­dum telling po­lice, the mil­i­tary and other state bod­ies to leave to the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA) “as sole agency” the con­duct of all cam­paigns and op­er­a­tions.

It was un­clear why Duterte had or­dered the change in the role of the po­lice, who have been re­spon­si­ble for the vast ma­jor­ity of ar­rests and killings in the 15-month-old cam­paign. Nei­ther the pres­i­den­tial spokesman nor the com­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­re­tary im­me­di­ately re­sponded to Reuters’ re­quests for com­ment.

The or­der could blunt the in­ten­sity of the crack­down, since the drug en­force­ment agency has only a frac­tion of the man­power of the 190,000-strong po­lice. But it was not the first time the mer­cu­rial leader has de­creed that the agency lead the drugs war.

Duterte sus­pended po­lice anti-drugs op­er­a­tions in late Jan­uary, to cleanse a force he called “cor­rupt to the core”, but lifted that ban five weeks later, say­ing drugs were flood­ing back to the streets and the gains of the war were be­ing lost.

The me­moran­dum, signed on Tues­day, or­dered the po­lice force at all times to “main­tain po­lice vis­i­bil­ity, as a de­ter­rent to il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties”, while re­strict­ing op­er­a­tions to the drug agency.

Its aim was “to bring or­der to the op­er­a­tion or cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs, thus pin­point­ing pre­cise ac­count­abil­ity”, the doc­u­ment said.

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