Duterte mulls reviving PH Constabulary to lead drug war

Pia Ranada
Under the proposal, the Philippine Constabulary will be fully manned by military personnel who, President Rodrigo Duterte believes, are less prone to corruption than the police

BRINGING BACK PC? President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a joint command conference with top PNP and AFP officials. Photo by Ace Morandante/Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines – Reviving the Philippine Constabulary and giving it nationwide command of the drug war was among the ideas that President Rodrigo Duterte “floated” during a recent joint command conference of the military and police.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella announced the President’s plan at a Palace news briefing on Tuesday, January 31.

“The police force will be supplemented through another project coming up….The Philippine Constabulary may be reactivated,” Abella said.

Abella stressed that the proposal is not yet an official government initiative, but Duterte had raised it as an option for a more effective war on drugs, given his admission that some members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the lead agency implementing the campaign, are corrupt.

Under the proposal, the PNP would not be abolished but would take care of “localized” operations. The revived PC would take charge of the drug war on the national level.

“It assumes that if and when this comes into operation, the PNP would be localized and the PC would be national in scope,” Abella explained.

It was not the first time Duterte brought up the revival of the PC, but it was the first time the Palace gave more details about what the President had in mind.

Another detail is that Duterte envisions the revived PC to be composed of military personnel because he feels they are more trustworthy than the police.

“Basically, from where he’s coming from, his main concern is anti-corruption and he says that the PC will be composed of gentlemen from the Armed Forces or the military which would be different from the PNP so they would be, in a sense, a more trustworthy organization, seeing as they are not civilian-run [like] the PNP,” said Abella.

Asked why Duterte trusts the AFP more, Abella said: “I think it’s structural. The way he explains it is this: that the PNP, it’s a more civilian situation, they are more exposed, they have interface with the everyday world while the military is not and so he is in effect saying that the PNP would be more prone to be corrupted than the military.”

Abella said he did not hear any “violent objections” to Duterte’s proposal from the security officials present at the joint command conference, which included AFP chief General Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and PNP chief Director-General Ronald dela Rosa. 

The PC was the same law enforcement arm known for its human rights abuses during the Marcos dictatorship. 

After the regime, it was disbanded and replaced with the PNP which is more civilian in nature. 

Abella acknowledged the PC’s history of human rights abuses but said he thinks “we can begin with a clean slate and assuming that they’re [in a] better moral position.”  

Dela Rosa had ordered a stop to the administration’s drug war so that the PNP can focus on cleansing its ranks of abusive police. This followed the discovery of alleged police abuse in the name of Oplan Tokhang, the government’s vaunted anti-drug campaign, particularly the kidnap and murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo in the police headquarters, Camp Crame.

Duterte had ordered the dismantling of all PNP anti-drug units and the creation of a narco command to identify corrupt police. 

With the suspension of Oplan Tokhang, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is in charge of implementing anti-drug programs. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.