PDEA chief on PNP’s drug war return: ‘I hope they change their guidelines first’

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino said on Wednesday, November 22, he welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to give back to the Philippine National Police (PNP) the lead role in the war on drugs.

“It was our wish from the start,” Aquino told Rappler in a phone interview.

Aquino said, however, that the PNP needed to reconsider its approach in the anti-illegal drugs campaign. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: PDEA on leading the drug war without the PNP)

“I just hope they can go back, i-review nila ang strategies nila para ‘yung may mali na sinasabi ng iba ay ma-correct,” Aquino said, himself the former regional police chief of Central Luzon before being appointed to the PDEA. (I just hope they can go back and review their strategies so that whatever wrong others are saying can be corrected.)

The reins of running the so-called drug war was taken from the PNP at a time when allegations were bristling about the police committing abuses in Duterte’s centerpiece project. Most notable were killings of teenagers  in Caloocan City which included 17-year-old Kian delos Santos and 19-year-old Carl Arnaiz.

On the day Aquino gave his advice, a group of lawyers have questioned the PNP's guidelines for the drug war in the halls of the Supreme Court. The lawyers asked the high tribunal to declare as 'unconstitutional' the PNP memorandum which operationalized the drug war strategy.  (READ: HIGHLIGHTS: What was discussed in SC oral arguments on drug war?)

It has been over month since the President pulled out the 190,000-strong PNP force from the drug war and turned over to the PDEA, which only has over 1,000 operatives nationwide.

Back then, Aquino’s first pronouncement was that they still needed the PNP in pursuing the drug war. Aquino even said that if PDEA did it alone up until the end of Duterte’s term, ending illegal drugs in the country would be “nearly impossible.”

He said he still believed they needed the men and women in blue.

Further, he dismissed claims that PDEA would be replaced in the drug war because it was underperforming. According to the PDEA chief, one month would never be enough “for any anti-illegal drugs agency” to show stellar results. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.