Duterte officially orders return of PNP to drug war

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a memorandum order instructing the Philippine National Police (PNP) to return to his administration’s controversial drug war even as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency remains its lead implementor.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, December 5, said the order directs the PNP “to resume providing active support to the PDEA in the conduct of anti-illegal drugs operations.” (READ: PNP on drug war return: 'We are ready')

“This supersedes the earlier memorandum that designated the PDEA as the sole agency that will deal with the anti-illegal drug operations,” Roque said.

He added that the PDEA remains the lead agency for the drug war.

The same memorandum also orders the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Customs, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philpost, and other agencies and anti-illegal drugs task forces to again support the PDEA in implementing the campaign.

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Asked what "active support" to the drug war means, Roque said this means the PNP can "participate" whereas, previously, "all of them cannot do anything."

On the ground, this means PNP will have to "consult" PDEA with all their anti-drugs operations, said Duterte's spokesman.

The PNP's return comes less than two months after Duterte named PDEA the sole agency for the drug war on October 10.

The memorandum was signed during the military-police command conference held in Malacañang on Tuesday afternoon.

Duterte, through the document, recognized the "significant strides" made by the PDEA as it led the drug war, noting that "only one drug suspect [was] killed in the course of its anti-illegal drugs operations."

However, the President ultimately decided the PDEA alone could not do the job due to "lack of resources, specifically agents and operatives who can penetrate drug-infected areas down to the municipal and barangay levels."

The memorandum also claimed there was "notable resurgence in illegal drugs activities" and related crimes since the PDEA became the sole drug war implementing agency.

Roque also claimed there is "clamor from the public" to bring the PNP back, citing "media reports" about this sentiment.

Duterte has long voiced his intention to bring the PNP back to the drug war. He had stripped them of leadership role in the campaign after several cases of supposed abuse of power. The first time the PNP lost its place in the anti-drugs campaign was after the murder of a South Korean businessman committed under the guise of an anti-drugs operation.

The second time was when the murder of teenagers during police raids caused public outrage and forced Duterte to demand the imprisonment of the police personnel responsible. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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