Bato: If war on drugs fails, bring us back
If things get worse, bring back the Philippine National Police.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said he would appeal to President Duterte to let the police back in the war on drugs should the crime situation get out of hand.
“If things get worse, I will tell him, ‘Sir, bring us back because our families are suffering.’ I myself will make the appeal if the time comes,” Dela Rosa said in an interview with CNN Philippines
Dela Rosa made the statement a day after Duterte ordered the PNP to pull out from the war against drugs and tasked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead in the anti-drug campaign.
The PNP’s “Oplan Tokhang,” the flagship campaign against illegal drugs, was halted along with “Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded” and other anti-illegal drug operations in the field.
PDEA chief Aaron Aquino, however, warned of a reduced intensity in the war on drugs after the PNP was pulled out from the campaign.
Aquino said he had only a fraction of the personnel and budget of the police and hoped the President’s decision to make PDEA responsible for all anti-drug operations would not be long-term.
“I know the public has high expectations but I am asking the public for understanding because of our limitations,” Aquino said in a radio interview. “I hope this is just a temporary arrangement, we need the police.”
Duterte signed a memorandum on Wednesday directing the PNP, along with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as the Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Corp. and all other agencies to refrain from spearheading drug operations.
The order also covers all ad hoc antidrug task forces.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he wants to know the NBI’s role in the war against drugs following the directive.
“I will check up to what extent, if allowed, could we participate in this war versus illegal drugs,” he said.
In the same interview with CNN Philippines, Dela Rosa suggested Duterte’s shift in strategy might have been a response to opinion polls that showed some public unease about the crackdown.
Dela Rosa admitted the PNP is to blame for Duterte’s drop in satisfaction ratings.
“It’s our fault because we have members doing something illegal so we pulled the President down,” he said.
Dela Rosa cited the murder of two teenagers by Caloocan City policemen that adversely affected the public’s perception of the war on drugs.
He said the Caloocan incident was a setback in the war against drugs.
Dela Rosa lamented they were put in a bad light by the incident even as a majority of policemen are treading the straight path.
“Policemen who were killed in drug operations are not being given more attention,” he said. “The world is so unfair (to) us.”
Dela Rosa added the police was already winning the campaign, having cut the drugs supply, made 113,000 arrests and convinced an estimated 1.3 million people to surrender.
But it was “not a total victory,” Dela Rosa said.
Having been sidelined in the drug war, Dela Rosa said the PNP would now concentrate on stopping the shadowy gunmen on motorcycles who were killing drug users, which police have often described as vigilante murders.
Such killings are among the 2,600 murders since July last year that police believe may have been drug-related.
“People think these are also policemen, so I want these people stopped and arrested,” Dela Rosa said.
As to the PNP’s Drug Enforcement Group, Dela Rosa said the unit will help in the efforts to rid the police organization of scalawags.
“They will help the CITF (Counterintelligence Task Force) so we can arrest these policemen involved in foolishness,” he said.
Duterte last night said he is maintaining a hands off policy in the campaign against illegal drugs as he has tasked PDEA to lead the campaign.
“I will not anymore interfere, I am not washing my hands… I leave it up to PDEA. If PDEA cannot do it, I don’t know who else can do this,” Duterte said over national television.
Asked how he expects to win the war, Duterte admitted he is inclined to give it up. “Frankly, I expect to lose it,” he said. He added the critics and human rights advocates who were noisy about the killings will be “winning” when he decided to pull out the PNP from the drug war.
Duterte said he gave the authority to PDEA in a bid to shield the PNP and NBI from accusations of extrajudicial killings (EJK).
He said he changed the acronym of EJK to EKJ, to mean “extra killing without judicial profit.”
Duterte said he is giving Aquino as chief of PDEA the free hand to oversee all operations related to the anti-drug campaign.
Dela Rosa stressed the PNP wants to help in the fight against illegal drugs but they are constrained by Duterte’s executive order placing PDEA in the lead role.
Dela Rosa pointed out PDEA might not be up to the task with a limited manpower of barely 2,000 officers and personnel.
“You can imagine the vacuum that we will be leaving behind. Right now we have 185,000 policemen focused on the war on drugs, then we suddenly backed off,” he said.