PNP suspends 'Oplan Double Barrel' anew
DAY after President Rodrigo Duterte has designated the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) as the "sole agency" in charge of the war on drugs, the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday suspended anew the implementation of the Oplan Double Barrel.
PNP deputy spokesperson Superintendent Vimelee Madrid said the suspension was in adherence to the President's order on Thursday.
Oplan Double Barrel is the PNP's campaign high-value drug targets.
Duterte, in a memorandum signed on October 10, tasked the PDEA to conduct anti-illegal drug operations "against all those who directly or indirectly, and in whatever manner or capacity, are involved in or connected with illegal dr ugs."
The President instructed the PNP, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and other agencies involved in drug war to just relay information related to the anti-drug campaign to PDEA.
He also instructed the PNP to merely maintain police visibility "as a deterrent to illegal drug activities."
Madrid said police officers may still make arrests if the illegal drug transaction is happening in front of them.
"Kung ang [if the] situation warrants warrantless arrest, we can take effect the arrest immediately. If the crime is being committed in our presence and we have personal knowledge that a crime is being committed or is about to be committed we will effect the arrest," Madrid said.
"We will still uphold the law. The use, dealing, the buying of illegal drugs is punishable by law so we still mandated to arrest anytime," she added.
Last January, Duterte detached the PNP from the war on drugs following the death of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo allegedly in the hands of the policemen, inside the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
He ordered the PNP, which he described as "corrupt to the core," to conduct internal cleansing and remove erring personnel from the servi ce.
Dela Rosa immediately dismantled the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group and created the Police Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG), which consists of police officers who underwent intense screening to ensure they are deserving of the job.
In March, the PNP announced the reactivation of the Oplan Double Barrel and promised that it would have been "less bloody." But the police drug war operations have killed dozens of more suspects, including minors.
Despite the latest suspension of the Oplan Double Barrel, PNP spokesperson Dionardo Carlos said the PDEG will remain as a unit.
He said the PDEG will continue with intelligence gathering and will forward and coordinate to the PDEA all the data they needed in line with the anti-illegal drugs operations.
Malacañang clarified on Thursday that delegating PDEA as the sole agency in charge of the war on drugs does not mean that there was a failure in implementation of the government's campaign against illicit drugs.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the President's latest directive simply meant that there was "substantial advances" on the administration's drug crackdown as the street distribution of narcotics already "degraded."
"It's not a question of failure; it's a question of more effectivity, optimizing the efforts, and they are widening the scope of responsibility," Abella said in a press conference.
"What happened is the street distribution of networks of drugs lords already degraded so we now target higher echelons of the syndicates, as well as their protectors in government," he added.
Abella said the PDEA would now elevate the campaign against illegal drugs as it has widened its scope.
"PDEA will now bring policy focus, expert performance standards, high-level coordination of oversight, and centralized intelligence collection to the war on drugs," the presidential spokesperson said.
"PDEA will also lead in the establishing a broad anti-drug coalition, working with agencies – LGUs (local government units), civil society, the Church, business, academe, and media to push prevention and rehabilitation initiatives," he added.
Duterte's drug war has sparked outrage locally and internationally following the deaths of thousands of suspected drug offenders, including some minors since he assumed office in 2016.
(Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo and Ruth Abbey Gita/ SunStar Philippines)