PDEA-7 says it is ready to take on the drug war

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Nes­tle L. Semilla and In­ TOKHANG

The Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP) has for­mally or­dered the ter- mi­na­tion of Oplan Tokhang af­ter Mala­cañang trans­ferred all the anti-drugs op­er­a­tions to the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA).

“Im­ple­men­ta­tion of Project Dou­ble Bar­rel and Oplan Tokhang are sus­pended im­me­di­ately,” PNP spokesper­son Chief Supt. Dionardo Car­los said Thursday.

The Oplan Dou­ble Bar­rel or Tokhang is the PNP’s con­tro­ver­sial cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs, which led to thou­sands of deaths of sus­pected drug users and ped­dlers.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has or­dered PDEA to be­come the sole agency tasked to carry out the war on drugs af­ter an in­de­pen­dent sur­vey showed de­clines in his sat­is­fac­tion and trust rat­ings be­cause of the bloody cam­paign.

The PNP im­me­di­ately said af­ter the Pres­i­dent’s di­rec­tive that it will now fo­cus on anti-crim­i­nal­ity op­er­a­tions, mostly on rid­ing-in-tan­dem shoot­ers, as well as in­ter­nal se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions, and anti-ter­ror­ism.

Its con­tri­bu­tion to the drug war will now be lim­ited to for­ward­ing of in­tel­li­gence in­for­ma­tion to PDEA, the PNP of­fi­cial said.

As a re­sult of the de­ac­ti­va­tion of Oplan Tokhang, both the Cebu Pro­vin­cial Po­lice Of­fice (CPPO) and Cebu City Po­lice Of­fice (CCPO) stopped the con­duct of anti-drug op­er­a­tions yes­ter­day.

Se­nior Insp. Llewe­lyn Reyes, CCPO in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, said they have yet to re­ceive the guide­lines on the Pres­i­dent’s mem­o­ran­dum but they al­ready de­ac­ti­vated their Drug En­force­ment Unit (DEU).

“Naka- re­ceive kami ng text pero wala pa yung for­mal guide­lines. So ngayon fo­cus na kami sa other crimes (We re­ceived a text about the or­der. How­ever, we have not for­mally re­ceived yet the guide­lines. So we are fo­cus­ing now on other crimes),” Reyes said.

But Reyes said the CCPO will still con­tinue to im­ple­ment Oplan Poke­mon in the city, which will now fo­cus on il­le­gal gam­bling.

Supt. Ryan Manongdo, deputy pro­vin­cial di­rec­tor for op­er­a­tions (DPDO) of the CPPO, said they also stopped their drug op­er­a­tions yes­ter­day but will in­stead fo­cus on con­duct­ing ran­dom check­points, which is also one way to de­ter il­le­gal drug ac­tiv­i­ties.

PRO-7 di­rec­tor Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, mean­while, as­sured the po­lice are not to­tally out of the picture since they can help in the in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing and as­sist PDEA in their an­tidrug op­er­a­tions.

The po­lice can ap­pre­hend or ar­rest any­body who is caught in the act in pos­ses­sion of il­le­gal drugs or para­pher­na­lia, he added.

Chal­lenge ac­cepted

Even with lim­ited man­power and re- sources, the PDEA in Cen­tral Visayas said it is ready to take on the drug war.

“PDEA-7 ac­cepts the chal­lenge and the re­spon­si­bil­ity given to us by the Pres­i­dent,” said the agency’s re­gional of­fi­cer in charge, lawyer Ana Lynn Her­nan­dez-Nob.

Nob stressed that even if they lack re­sources and man­power, it does not mean that they can­not per­form well in their cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs.

“We are over­whelmed (by the di­rec­tive). But we will not back down to our re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Nob said.

Nob be­lieved they could take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity since this was not the first time that PDEA took a lead in the war against drugs. Last Jan­uary, the Pres­i­dent also stripped the po­lice and other law en­force­ment agen­cies of their func­tion to con­duct anti-drug op­er­a­tions in the heels of al­leged drug war–re­lated po­lice abuses.

PDEA-7 has only less than a hun­dred per­son­nel, not close to the less than a thou­sand as ear­lier re­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to Nob, PDEA-7 has only about 50 drug en­force­ment of­fi­cers and about 50 ad­min­is­tra­tion per­son­nel, in­clud­ing con­trac­tual em­ploy­ees.

“I think our strength, more or less, is a strength of one po­lice sta­tion,” Nob said.

Since Cen­tral Visayas is com­posed of four prov­inces — Cebu, Bo­hol, Siqui­jor and Negros Ori­en­tal — Nob said they need more per­son­nel.

“We need more to ad­dress the enor­mous prob­lem of il­le­gal drugs (in Cen­tral Visayas),” she added.

Nob like­wise stressed PDEA-7 could not do the job alone and would need the help of other law en­force­ment agen­cies, es­pe­cially the In­ter-agency Com­mit­tee for Anti-Drug (ICAD).

“We will ask the help of other gov­ern­ment agen­cies spe­cially those mem­bers of ICAD. Of course we will also seek the as­sis­tance of lo­cal gov­ern­ment units (LGUs) and our com­mu­nity,” said Nob.

The ICAD mem­bers in­clude the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philip­pines, Na­tional Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (NBI), Dan­ger­ous Drugs Board (DDB), Depart­ment of In­te­rior and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment (DILG), Depart­ment of Na­tional De­fense, among oth­ers.


How­ever, Cebu City of­fi­cials, in­clud- ing Mayor To­mas Os­meña, ex­pressed reser­va­tions over hand­ing the anti-drug war solely to PDEA.

“There are a lot of good men in PDEA, but pila ra man na sila kabuok (there are just a few of them),” Os­meña said in a press brief­ing on Thursday.

The mayor also noted that the Cebu City Po­lice Of­fice (CCPO) un­der Supt. Joel Do­ria has done a sat­is­fac­tory job in its cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs in the city.

City Coun­cilor Ray­mond Alvin Gar­cia said he was wor­ried that drug ped­dling and drug-re­lated crime in the city would dra­mat­i­cally in­crease. “We do not mean to un­der­mine PDEA be­cause that is ac­tu­ally their man­date, but we know very well that this agency is very much un­der­manned com­pared to the po­lice force,” Gar­cia said.

“Un­der­manned na man gani na ang PNP with one po­lice­man cov­er­ing for 2000 in­hab­i­tants, how much more ang PDEA?” Gar­cia added.

Ac­cord­ing to Gar­cia, the risk that drug per­son­al­i­ties will be back in busi­ness be­comes higher know­ing that PDEA has very few per­son­nel to mon­i­tor them.

For Coun­cilor Joel Gar­gan­era, the Pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion was only meant to give the PNP a “breath­ing space,” so it could re­assess how it had been han­dling the drug war and cor­rect what went wrong.

“Prob­a­bly, he (Duterte) did this be­cause of the many vi­o­la­tions and in­ci­dents of abuse that has been as­so­ci­ated to the po­lice in this cam­paign. I think this is just a breath­ing space for them to re­flect and cor­rect their ways in im­ple­ment­ing this drug war,” said Gar­gan­era.

City Coun­cilor Pas­tor Al­cover Jr., on the other hand, said the war on drugs has been de­fec­tive from the be­gin­ning.

“Imag­ine him telling the po­lice­men that they can kill and he will de­fend them, abu­sive po­lice­men now have more power. It is de­fec­tive since from the start and now, it has con­ceived big­ger prob­lems,” said Al­cover, re­fer­ring to the cases of al­leged ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings.

Cebu Pro­vin­cial Anti-Drug Abuse Of­fice (CPADAO) chief Car­men Reme­dios “Ivy” Du­rano-Meca also raised con­cern that PDEA would not be able to adequately wage a war against il­le­gal drugs in the prov­ince, such as what hap­pened when it was first tasked to han­dle the drug war last Jan­uary.

Meca at­trib­uted this to the “in­suf­fi­cient” num­ber of per­son­nel in PDEA needed to cover the en­tire Cen­tral Visayas Re­gion.

“This is the sec­ond time for such or­der, and based on the ex­pe­ri­ence in the first one, in terms of pro­vin­cial level, it was not suc­cess­ful. We re­ceived com­plaints and con­cerns from LGUs in the grass­roots level, and said PDEA’s pres­ence can­not be felt. PDEA’s man­power is very lim­ited in terms of op­er­a­tion,” she said.

Meca also stressed the need for col­lab­o­ra­tion in get­ting rid of the il­le­gal drug men­ace in the prov­ince, and that the po­lice should have a share in the re­spon­si­bil­ity of im­ple­ment­ing anti-il­le­gal drugs op­er­a­tions.

“As what I’ve said ear­lier, the prob­lem on il­le­gal drugs is a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity. CPADAO can­not even do it by it­self. It needed the help of other law en­force­ment agen­cies like the po­lice. It is bet­ter to have the PNP (Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice) be­cause they are sta­tioned in ev­ery LGU, and their vis­i­bil­ity is more prom­i­nent. Giv­ing the task only to PDEA would re­ally make a big dif­fer­ence,” she said.

Pres­i­den­tial pre­rog­a­tive

Man­daue City Mayor Luigi Quisumb­ing, on the other hand, said the Pres­i­dent has his rea­sons in en­trust­ing the drug war to the PDEA even as he be­lieved that the po­lice are in a bet­ter po­si­tion to fight il­le­gal drugs.

“We de­fer the wis­dom of the Pres­i­dent, but may I say that in Man­daue City, the PNP and MCPO (Man­daue City Po­lice Of­fice) have been re­ally one of the main rea­sons why the drug trade has been min­i­mized, has been pos­i­tively af­fected,”' he said.

Quisumb­ing said he was also “proud of the job that MCPO has done in the fight against drugs and we know that they will con­tinue to serve the com­mu­nity in terms of the fight against crim­i­nal­ity.”

He added he was con­fi­dent the city gov­ern­ment and MCPO would still be able to ef­fec­tively deal with il­le­gal drugs since PDEA has said it would con­tinue to work with the po­lice.

The com­mu­nity re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams for the sur­ren­der­ers and as­sess­ment of liveli­hood are still in­tact and po­lice will con­tinue to con­duct their anti-drug aware­ness cam­paign, he noted.

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