PDEA admits ‘failing’ in street-level drug war

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) admitted on Monday, December 11, that it failed in the street-level war on drugs when it was left alone in implementing President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign.

PDEA chief Director General Aaron Aquino said in a press briefing that it was his "wish" the Philippine National Police (PNP) would return to support PDEA's operations.

"Nahihirapan kasi kami pagdating sa street level, doon kami nagpe-fail sa street level, sa totoo lang," he said. (We were having a hard time when it comes to the street level. We were failing there, to tell you the truth.)

Aquino was referring to PDEA's almost two-month stint as the "sole agency" in charge of the drug war, as President Duterte had ordered.

Before the shift, the PDEA had been focusing on high-value targets, such as drug lords and public officials involved in the illegal trade.

The PDEA chief stressed, as he had repeatedly done before, that the agency did not have enough personnel to cover what the PNP used to do. (READ: PDEA chief says PNP 'still needed' in drug war)

The PDEA only has over 1,000 personnel, while the PNP has around 190,000.

"The PNP was embedded in barangays because they were in municipal police stations and they could operate very effectively.... PDEA didn't have any personnel in municipal police stations so we were failing there," Aquino said in Filipino.

This is the reason PDEA has always welcomed, with some reservations, the return of the PNP on the front lines of the campaign, he said. (READ: PDEA chief on PNP’s drug war return: ‘I hope they change their guidelines first’)

Asked whether it was true that there was a "notable resurgence in illegal drugs activities"– which the President cited as one of the reasons he returned the PNP to the campaign – Aquino said they did not have the data to back or refute it. – 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.