Du30: I won’t in­ter­fere in drug war any­more

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - NEWS - By Leila B. Salaver­ria, Nikko Di­zon Julie M. Aure­lio and Jerome Aning —WITH RE­PORTS

Pres­i­dent Duterte on Fri­day said he would no longer in­ter­fere in an­tidrug op­er­a­tions and had told the po­lice to move away if they chanced upon such an ac­tiv­ity and just leave the mat­ter en­tirely up to the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA).

Mr. Duterte, in an in­ter­view aired on PTV 4 on Fri­day but taped on Thurs­day, said his move was in re­sponse to crit­i­cisms over the deaths of thou­sands in the drug war.

“You know why? Be­cause that is what you want, you are blam­ing the gov­ern­ment for al­most ev­ery­thing,” he said, ap­par­ently ad­dress­ing his crit­ics.

“If there are drug op­er­a­tions, I told po­lice ‘Do not in­ter­fere. If you see a chase and they say it’s drugs, you leave. Let them be.’ So if somebody dies, the priests, you go to PDEA,” he added.

He said he didn’t want to have any­thing to do with the drug war any­more.

“I will not any­more in­ter­fere. I am not wash­ing my hands. I just don’t want to be in­volved any­more,” he said.

The Pres­i­dent on Tues­day made the PDEA the lead agency in his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs, de­mot­ing the po­lice, which had drawn pub­lic out­cry over the thou­sands of drug-re­lated killings in the coun­try.

Asked about whether he thought the PDEA could take on the drug net­work on its own, Mr. Duterte said sar­cas­ti­cally that hu­man rights ad­vo­cates might be able to help.

“Hu­man rights should help the PDEA. They should go af­ter [the drug lords],” he said.

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s war on drugs would be made trans­par­ent and less bloody, but warned that its in­ten­sity could de­cline as the agency lacked man­power.

“I want it to be a trans­par­ent op­er­a­tion. [The] me­dia will al­ways be in­vited [to] our op­er­a­tions. We will al­ways wear our body cams dur­ing op­er­a­tions,” he told the In­quirer in a text mes­sage.

Frac­tion of PNP bud­get

Aquino said the PDEA’s bud­get and per­son­nel were only frac­tions of those of the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice, which had led the drug war un­til Tues­day.

In a speech in Du­maguete City, the Pres­i­dent said his de­ci­sion to make the drug war the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of the PDEA could have grave con­se­quences.

“Now, if the PDEA can do it, well, that’s what you want, to pin­point the re­spon­si­bil­ity and any­way, the law says it’s the PDEA who would be the lead agency,” he said.

“Okay, but that is fraught with so many grave con­se­quences. But it’s be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated by the priests, by the hu­man rights [ad­vo­cates],” he added.

Mr. Duterte did not say what the con­se­quences might be, but ex­plained that he took a risk with his de­ci­sion.

“I gam­bled on that, but every­body knows—the mil­i­tary and the po­lice—the con­se­quences could be far more se­ri­ous,” he said.

In a tirade on Thurs­day loaded with pro­fan­ity and aimed at his crit­ics, Mr. Duterte said he hoped his or­der to with­draw the po­lice would sat­isfy the “bleed­ing hearts and the me­dia.”

‘He lis­tens to peo­ple’

Mr. Duterte moved af­ter his pub­lic sat­is­fac­tion and trust rat­ings suf­fered dou­ble-digit drops —sub­stan­tial de­clines that his al­lies and crit­ics at­trib­uted to the rash of bru­tal mur­ders of teenagers al­legedly by po­lice­men car­ry­ing out “Oplan Tokhang.”

Mala­cañang said the Pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to des­ig­nate the PDEA as the lead in the drug war showed he knew how to lis­ten to the peo­ple.

“The Pres­i­dent gave the di­rec­tive in or­der to ac­com­mo­date, ap­par­ently to ac­commo- date, those who think that the cam­paign against drugs should be con­ducted oth­er­wise,” said pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Ernesto Abella.

Change strat­egy

But leav­ing the cam­paign in the hands of the PDEA may not be enough to stop the spate of al­leged ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial of the Catholic Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence of the Philip­pines (CBCP).

Fr. Jerome Se­cil­lano, the ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary of the CBCP’s per­ma­nent com­mit­tee on pub­lic af­fairs, said the PDEA should also veer away from the failed strat­egy of the PNP.

“It only re­sulted to the death of poor peo­ple and drugs con­tin­ued to pro­lif­er­ate. But with the change in per­son­nel, there should also be a shift in strat­egy,” Se­cil­lano said.

NBI to cease drug op­er­a­tions

Like the PNP, the Na­tional Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion has also been or­dered to cease its an­tidrug op­er­a­tions.

In a depart­ment memo on Fri­day, Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Vi­tal­iano Aguirre II said the NBI, which had an anti-il­le­gal drugs di­vi­sion, would “leave to the PDEA all op­er­a­tions against il­le­gal drugs.”

Po­lice­men have killed some 3,850 drug sus­pects, each of whom for sup­pos­edly re­sist­ing ar­rest, since July 1 last year when Mr. Duterte launched the cam­paign.

Some 2,000 others have been killed by un­known as­sailants, whom hu­man rights cam­paign­ers be­lieve are hired guns work­ing for the po­lice.

Slow­down in op­er­a­tions

Aquino said he hoped the Pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to make his agency re­spon­si­ble for all op­er­a­tions would not be long term. The pub­lic might no­tice a slow­down in op­er­a­tions, he added.

“I know the pub­lic has high ex­pec­ta­tions but I amask­ing 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.”

“I can­not make as­sur­ances but there will be lesser deaths,” Aquino added.

He said the PDEA would now go af­ter big drug syn­di­cates, a strat­egy that dove­tails with the CBCP’s wish.

“The PDEA should run af­ter the man­u­fac­tur­ers, car­tels or syn­di­cates, rather than merely prey on small-time push­ers and poor ad­dicts,” Se­cil­lano said.

But Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, a fierce critic of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s drug war, ex­pressed doubts that the PDEA could stop the drug killings.

“Can the PDEA put a stop to killings of the same drug sus­pects by death squads?” David said.

‘Backed by facts’

Asked if this in­di­cated that the move had not been stud­ied be­fore it was put into ef­fect, he said Mr. Duterte was backed up by “facts and fig­ures.”

“For ex­am­ple, the PDEA has lesser deaths un­der—it less­ened drug-re­lated op­er­a­tions. And so he says, if this seems to be more ac­com­mo­dat­ing to the mood of the times, then let’s see how it goes,” Abella said.

Aquino planned to ask for a big­ger bud­get and to add 1,0001,500 agents a year un­til 2022. PDEA has about 2,000 per­son­nel, 1,100 of whom are agents, com­pared to about 175,000 po­lice­men na­tion­wide.

The PNP chief, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Ron­ald “Bato” dela Rosa, lamented that the po­lice were “win­ning the cam­paign,” with the drug sup­ply slashed and 113,000 ar­rests, when Mr. Duterte or­dered the po­lice to yield the lead to the PDEA.

In Camp Olivas in Pam­panga, re­gional po­lice di­rec­tor Chief Supt. Amador Cor­pus on Fri­day dis­solved all drug-en­force­ment units and lim­ited their op­er­a­tions to in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing.

Drug-re­lated cases un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in all seven provinces un­der his ju­ris­dic­tion would be turned over to the PDEA, he said.

Pres­i­dent Duterte

Aaron Aquino

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