Philip­pine anti-nar­cotics chief warns of drug war slow­down

The Star Malaysia - - World -

MANILA: The head of the Philip­pines’ anti­nar­cotics agency warned of a re­duced in­ten­sity in the coun­try’s war on drugs af­ter a re­moval of po­lice from the cam­paign, which he hoped would only be tem­po­rary as his unit lacked man­power.

Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino said yes­ter­day he had only a frac­tion of the per­son­nel and bud­get of po­lice, and hoped Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s de­ci­sion to make his agency re­spon­si­ble for all op­er­a­tions would not be last­ing.

“I know the pub­lic has high ex­pec­ta­tions but I am ask­ing the pub­lic for un­der­stand­ing be­cause of our lim­i­ta­tions,” he said in a ra­dio in­ter­view.

“I hope this is just a tem­po­rary ar­range­ment, we need the po­lice.”

Amid un­prece­dented scru­tiny of po­lice con­duct, the mer­cu­rial Duterte is­sued a mem­o­ran­dum on Tues­day or­der­ing po­lice to with­draw.

The au­thor­i­ties said the shift in strat­egy was to go af­ter big drug syn­di­cates.

Na­tional po­lice chief Ronald dela Rosa said po­lice could now fo­cus ef­forts on catch­ing mys­te­ri­ous gun­men who were as­sas­si­nat­ing drug users, to dis­prove al­le­ga­tions by hu­man rights groups that po­lice were be­hind such killings.

Po­lice say they have killed 3,900 peo­ple in their anti­drugs op­er­a­tions over the past 15 months and deny al­le­ga­tions by ac­tivists that many of those were ex­e­cu­tions.

Po­lice say they used deadly force in each of those cases, be­cause the sus­pects were armed and had re­sisted ar­rest.

In a tirade on Thurs­day loaded with pro­fan­ity and aimed at his for­eign and do­mes­tic crit­ics, Duterte said deaths dur­ing PDEA’s op­er­a­tions were far less than po­lice, and hoped “bleed­ing hearts” would be sat­is­fied with his de­ci­sion.

PDEA’s Aquino said the pub­lic might no­tice a slow­down in op­er­a­tions.

He planned to ask for a big­ger bud­get, to add 1,000­1,500 agents a year un­til 2022, adding it was un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect the PDEA to fight the prob­lem with its small num­bers.

PDEA has about 2,000 per­son­nel, 1,100 of which are agents, com­pared to more than 175,000 po­lice na­tion­wide.

Amid anger over a high­pro­file kid­nap and mur­der case in­volv­ing po­lice, Duterte sus­pended po­lice from the drug war in Jan­uary and put PDEA in charge. He re­in­stated po­lice soon af­ter, say­ing drugs had flooded back to the streets.

In an in­ter­view with CNN Philip­pines, po­lice chief Dela Rosa sug­gested Duterte’s shift in strat­egy might have been a re­sponse to opin­ion polls that showed some pub­lic un­ease about the crack­down.

A sur­vey on Sun­day showed a sig­nif­i­cant slide in Duterte’s rat­ings, but an­other one by a dif­fer­ent poll­ster, re­leased yes­ter­day, showed he was still hugely pop­u­lar. — Reuters

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