PDEA chief says PNP ‘still needed’ in drug war

Rambo Talabong

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PDEA chief says PNP ‘still needed’ in drug war
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency only has over a thousand agents, says PDEA chief Aaron Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency “still needs” the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the drug war, PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said on Wednesday, October 11.

Aquino made the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte named PDEA as the “sole agency” in charge of his war on drugs.

“I still need the PNP,” Aquino told reporters in a text message, when asked about PDEA’s lead role in the anti-drug campaign. 

“I have only more than a thousand agents,” he added.

Aquino had asked for a bigger budget in 2018, as PDEA is severely undermanned to lead Duterte’s drug war. (READ: PDEA wants additional P934 million for drug war)

The Senate finance committee approved the proposed P934-million increase in PDEA’s budget for 2018.

The PNP, for its part, had a brief response to the presidential directive.

“Will follow the order of the CIC (commander-in-chief) and the CE (Chief Executive),” PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos told reporters in a text message on Wednesday.

In his memorandum order, Duterte directed the PNP and other agencies to leave all anti-illegal drug operations to PDEA, as mandated by Republic Act Number 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act. (READ: Duterte names PDEA as ‘sole agency’ for drug war)

Duterte’s order reduced the PNP’s role to maintaining police visibility to deter illegal drug activities.

“The PNP shall, at all times, maintain police visibility as a deterrent to illegal drug activities, leaving to the PDEA however the conduct of all anti-illegal drug operations as aforestated,” the memorandum order said.

The PNP had taken the lead in the drug war under the Duterte administration through Oplan Double Barrel, its two-tiered program to end the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.

The program includes the controversial Oplan TokHang and Oplan High-Value Target which go hand in hand with targeting small-time drug dealers and drug lords. 

The drug war under the PNP had been criticized at home and abroad because of the number of deaths linked to it. There have been over 3,500 alleged drug personalities killed in legitimate operations, according to data from the PNP. 

In January, after it was discovered that police were involved in the killing of  a South Korean businessman in Camp Crame, Duterte ordered the dismantling of all anti-illegal drug units in the PNP. He also announced then that he would put PDEA at the helm of the drug war.

In February, Duterte allowed the PNP to resume its lead in the drug war. In the months that followed, particularly in August, the PNP conducted its “one-time, big-time” operations against drug suspects that claimed many lives, among them, 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.  – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.