Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Ador Vin­cent S. Mayol and In­quirer

For the sec­ond time in nine months, Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte or­dered the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA) to be the sole agency to con­duct all anti-drug op­er­a­tions in the coun­try.

The dif­fer­ence this time, how­ever, was that the or­der came in the form of a pres­i­den­tial me­moran­dum dated Oc­to­ber 10, 2017, which Mala­cañang re­leased yes­ter­day.

Sidelin­ing the po­lice and other law en­force­ment agen­cies, Pres­i­dent Duterte said the PDEA must as­sume full con­trol of his drug war.

The coun­try’s top ex­ec­u­tive di­rected the National Bu- reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (NBI), the Philip­pine National Po­lice (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP), the Bureau of Cus­toms (BOC), the Philip­pine Postal Of­fice (PPO) and all other agen­cies to leave to the PDEA the con­duct of all anti-drugs cam­paign.

“All in­for­ma­tion/data re­ceived by the NBI, PNP, AFP, Bureau of Cus­toms, Philip­pine Postal Of­fice, and all

other agen­cies or any and all ad hoc anti-drug task forces shall forth­with be re­layed, de­liv­ered, or brought to the at­ten­tion of the PDEA for its ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion,” said Pres­i­dent Duterte in his me­moran­dum.

“The PNP shall, at all times, main­tain po­lice vis­i­bil­ity, as a de­ter­rent to il­le­gal drug ac­tiv­i­ties leav­ing to the PDEA, how­ever, the con­duct of anti-il­le­gal drug op­er­a­tions as aforestated,” he added.

The di­rec­tive came just as the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion, par­tic­u­larly the po­lice, has been re­ceiv­ing heavy crit­i­cism fol­low­ing the deaths of three teenagers in dif­fer­ent drug op­er­a­tions in Caloocan City.

Be­ing out of the drug war, how­ever, only means less work and fewer prob­lems for the PNP, ac­cord­ing to its chief, Direc­tor Gen­eral Ron­ald “Bato” dela Rosa.

“Yes! Haya­hay na kami ngayon (Yes, we can relax now),” Dela Rosa told re­porters at the Se­nate, where he went on Wednesday to at­tend the hear­ing that tack­led the bud­get of the PNP for 2018.

“You can just imag­ine, bin­uhos namin ang la­hat, ha­los 100 per­cent, ng re­sources ng PNP for the last year [on the war on drugs]. Eh ’di now we can fo­cus on other crimes, hindi lang drugs, at bawas na rin sa prob­lema namin,” he said.

(You can just imag­ine, we poured all, al­most 100 per­cent, of the re­sources of the PNP last year on the war on drugs. So now we can fo­cus on other crimes, not only drugs, and that’s one less prob­lem for us.)

Help is still needed

But while PDEA has been the lead anti-drug law en­force­ment agency re­spon­si­ble for com­bat­ing dan­ger­ous drugs in the coun­try since 2002, PDEA in Cen­tral Visayas in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer and spokesper­son Earl Ral­los said they also need help from the po­lice and other law en­force­ment agen­cies.

“Ad­mit­tedly, we need other agen­cies es­pe­cially that the PDEA has lim­ited man­power,” he told CEBU DAILY NEWS over the phone.

“In fact, even if the po­lice are there to also fight il­le­gal drugs, we still have a hard time,” he added.

As part of their se­cu­rity pro­ce­dure, Ral­los said PDEA-7 would not di­vulge their ac­tual man­power but said the regional of­fice cur­rently has less than a thou­sand agents and per­son­nel, al­ready in­clud­ing the ad- min­is­tra­tive staff.

He begged off from is­su­ing fur­ther state­ments, say­ing they still have to wait for in­struc­tions from their main of­fice re­gard­ing the Pres­i­dent’s or­der.

“We need to have a uni­fied stand on this so we have to wait for the of­fi­cial di­rec­tives,” Ral­los said.

PDEA-7 still has no reg­u­lar chief after its for­mer regional direc­tor Yogi File­mon Ruiz was ap­pointed as chief of the En­force­ment and Se­cu­rity Ser­vices of the Bureau of Cus­toms last month.

Last Jan­uary 2017, Pres­i­dent Duterte also stripped the po­lice and other law en­force­ment agen­cies of their func­tion to con­duct anti-drug op­er­a­tions, and man­dated the PDEA to take the lead as the Philip­pine National Po­lice (PNP) fo­cused on clean­ing its own ranks after al­le­ga­tions of a highly cor­rupt po­lice force con­tin­ued to haunt the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The Pres­i­dent also dis­banded the PNP Anti-Il­le­gal Drugs Group (AIDG) fol­low­ing the death of Korean busi­ness­man Jee Ick-joo at the hands of rogue po­lice­men inside Camp Crame.

Jee was taken from his home in Angeles, Pam­panga, on Oc­to­ber 18, 2016 by po­lice­men of the PNP–AIDG in the guise of a drug op­er­a­tion. It was later re­vealed that the busi­ness­man was killed inside the po­lice head­quar­ters in Camp Crame on the same day he was ab­ducted.

After a month, how­ever, Pres­i­dent Duterte an­nounced that he would al­low the po­lice to re­sume its op­er­a­tions against il­le­gal drugs due to re­ports of a resur­gent nar­cotics trade dur­ing the cam­paign’s sus­pen­sion.

Follow the chief’s or­der

Se­nior Supt. Joel Do­ria, direc­tor of the Cebu City Po­lice Of­fice, yes­ter­day said they would follow the Pres­i­dent’s or­der but de­clined to com­ment fur­ther, say­ing he has yet to re­ceive the of­fi­cial di­rec­tive from Dela Rosa.

“Mahi­rap mag- com­ment sa ngayon. Sa atin lang, kung anong di­rec­tive ng at­ing Pres­i­dent at ng chief PNP, susunod tayo (It’s hard to com­ment about it for now. On our part, how­ever, we will follow what­ever di­rec­tive from our Pres­i­dent and chief PNP),” he told CDN over the phone.

“If the PDEA was des­ig­nated to be the sole agency in our cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs, we have to abide by it. We fully sup­port our Pres­i­dent and chief PNP,” he added.

NBI-Cen­tral Visayas Direc­tor Jose Pa­tri­cio Ber­nales Jr. shared the same sen­ti­ment.

“We heard about the Pres­i­dent’s di­rec­tive through the news. But we have not re­ceived any guide­lines yet. What­ever our higher-ups in Manila will say, then we will follow it,” he told CEBU DAILY NEWS over the phone.

Leo Vil­lar­ino, the chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor of the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights in Cen­tral Visayas (CHR-7), said the Pres­i­dent has the pre­rog­a­tive to choose whom he wanted to lead the anti-drugs op­er­a­tions.

“We can’t ques­tion the wis­dom of the Pres­i­dent. Pri­mar­ily, the agency which is re­spon­si­ble for con­duct­ing anti-drug op­er­a­tions is the PDEA (as man­dated un­der Repub­lic Act 9168 or the Com­pre­hen­sive Dan­ger­ous Drugs Act of 2002). The po­lice and other law en­force­ment agen­cies were only tasked to as­sist the PDEA,” he told CDN.

“We don’t want to ven­ture into the pre­rog­a­tive of the Pres­i­dent. But whether anti-drug op­er­a­tions will be con­ducted by PDEA alone or with the po­lice and NBI, all we want is for them to re­spect hu­man rights,” he added.

For the record

Since May 2016, shortly after Pres­i­dent Duterte as­sumed the pres­i­dency, CHR-7 has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing at least 38 cases of al­leged ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

Of the num­ber, six were el­e­vated to the Of­fice of the Om­buds­man — all of which in­volved po­lice­men or op­er­a­tives of PDEA.

Since the po­lice have reser­va­tions in giv­ing the par­tic­u­lar names of those who might have shot the vic­tims, Vil­lar­ino said all mem­bers of the op­er­at­ing teams, in­clud­ing their lead­ers, are im­pleaded in the com­plaints filed at the anti-graft of­fice.

Based on the records of the Po­lice Regional Of­fice in Cen­tral Visayas (PRO-7), at least 188 drug sus­pects in the re­gion were killed in al­leged shootouts with po­lice­men, while 213 oth­ers were gunned down by still-un­known as­sailants since July 1, 2016.

On the other hand, at least 9,466 drug sus­pects were ar­rested in the re­gion over the same pe­riod while some 108,742 drug users and push­ers sur­ren­dered to the au­thor­i­ties at the on­set of Oplan Tokhang ( tok­tok hangyo), a po­lice door-to-door anti-drug cam­paign where sus­pects are asked to sur­ren­der and sign doc­u­ments re­nounc­ing their in­volve­ment in il­le­gal drugs, ei­ther as a user or a ped­dler.

Since the war on drugs started, PRO-7 has seized a to­tal of 35,039 grams of shabu (metham­phetamine) worth P363.8 mil­lion.


DRUGS BUY-BUST op­er­a­tions, like in this photo taken in Si­tio Bato, Barangay Er­mita, Cebu City on Oc­to­ber 9, 2017, will no longer be han­dled by the po­lice but by the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency as or­dered by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte in a...

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