Pulling out the PNP

Sun.Star Pampanga - - OPINOIOPNINION -

NLY a few days af­ter the So­cial

Sta­tions (SWS) re­leased the re­sults of its lat­est sur­vey that showed a steep drop in Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s sat­is­fac­tion and trust rat­ings, moves to ar­rest the slide are be­ing made. The first two moves ad­dress one of the sev­eral is­sues that the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion faced last month, which en­com­passes the pe­riod when the sur­vey was con­ducted. I am re­fer­ring to the ex­tra-ju­di­cial killings (EJKs) in the war against il­le­gal drugs.

Last Tues­day, the pres­i­dent is­sued a mem­o­ran­dum to law en­forcers or­der­ing them to let the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency (PDEA) be the “sole agency” to con­duct anti-il­le­gal drug cam­paigns and op­er­a­tions. The Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP), mean­while, was told to “at all times main­tain po­lice vis­i­bil­ity as a de­ter­rent to il­le­gal drug ac­tiv­i­ties.” The memo based the or­der on Repub­lic Act No. 9165 (Com­pre­hen­sive Dan­ger­ous Drugs Act of 2002) wherein PDEA’s task was out­lined.

Yes­ter­day, PNP Chief Ron­ald dela Rosa or­dered a halt to the PNP’s anti-il­le­gal drugs op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing Oplan Tokhang (“Tok­tokHangyo”), Oplan Dou­ble Bar­rel and even the con­tro­ver­sial re­port­ing of drug sus­pects in the barangays us­ing the drop box sys­tem. This would mean the PNP will now fo­cus on other forms of crim­i­nal­ity and on in­ter­nal cleans­ing.

This is not an un­prece­dented move, though, be­cause the pres­i­dent and dela Rosa did the same in Jan­uary this year months af­ter the killing of Korean busi­ness­man Jee Ick-joo in Oc­to­ber last year. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the killing showed the in­volve­ment of el­e­ments of the PNP Anti-Il­le­gal Drugs Group. All spe­cial po­lice groups in­volved in the war on drug were dis­solved, with dela rosa promis­ing to con­duct a cleans­ing of the PNP ranks.

Oplan Dou­ble Bar­rel, though, was reloaded and Oplan Tokhang 2 launched in the first week of March with the un­der­stand­ing that the cleans­ing process was al­ready com­plete. “This time, we will make sure it will be less bloody, if not blood­less,” dela Rosa had promised then. In Au­gust, what can be con­sid­ered as the blood­i­est anti-drug cam­paign hap­pened in Bu­la­can (32 killed in 24 hours), Manila (25 killed in one sweep) and the Caloocan-Mal­abonNavotas-Valen­zuela area (24 killed, also in one sweep). The last op­er­a­tion in­cluded the killing of mi­nor Kian de­los San­tos.

With PDEA tak­ing the lead in the war against il­le­gal drugs, the ex­pec­ta­tion is that the killings would lessen and abuses min­i­mized. This can there­fore be con­sid­ered a recog­ni­tion by the pres­i­dent that there is some­thing wrong in the con­duct of his anti-il­le­gal drugs cam­paign de­spite strong de­nials of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and EJKs. It is also an ad­mis­sion that the EJK is­sue has the po­ten­tials of pulling him down in pop­u­lar­ity sur­veys.

But can these moves ar­rest the down­ward slide in the pres­i­dent’s sat­is­fac­tion and trust rat­ings? It can. The prob­lem is that the is­sue on EJKs was not the only one that hounded the duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion last month. There were also the smug­gling of P6.4 bil­lion worth of shabu and the anti-graft of­fice’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the pres­i­dent’s al­leged bank de­posits. Let’s see how the pres­i­dent’s strate­gists will ad­dress those is­sues.

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