Bato: If war on drugs fails, bring us back

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By EM­MANUEL TUPAS

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

yes­ter­day.

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.

Los­ing it

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.

Sup­port

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.

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