Duterte appoints Wilkins Villanueva as PDEA chief

Pia Ranada
Duterte appoints Wilkins Villanueva as PDEA chief
Villanueva, who leads the PDEA's Northern Mindanao office, replaces Aaron Aquino as chief of the country's top anti-drugs agency

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has replaced Aaron Aquino as director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), giving the post to Wilkins Villanueva, who leads the agency’s Northern Mindanao office.

Villanueva posted his appointment paper on Facebook on Tuesday, May 26. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed his appointment to Rappler.

Villanueva had also formerly served as chief of the PDEA’s National Capital Region office and had defended Duterte amid criticism of his questionable drug war figures.

In his two-decade career in anti-drug law enforcement, Villanueva has worked in the Philippine National Police (PNP) Narcotics Group, aside from the PDEA.

In his Facebook post on Tuesday, Villanueva thanked longtime Duterte aide Senator Bong Go and former PNP chief and now senator Ronald dela Rosa for their “encouragement and support.”

The nature of Aquino’s departure from the PDEA is unclear – whether he was fired or voluntarily chose to leave the post.

The PDEA is the government’s top anti-narcotics agency and plays an essential role in Duterte’s most infamous policy, his campaign against illegal drugs.

The PDEA was at one point given sole authority over anti-drug operations, especially when the PNP was embroiled in controversy, such as when a South Korean national was killed by cops under the guise of an anti-drug raid, and when teenagers were being killed in operations.

Duterte has replaced the head of PDEA twice – first replacing former police general Isidro Lapeña with Aquino, then now replacing Aquino with Villanueva. – 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.