PDEA takes lead from PNP in drug war

October 16, 2017 at 14:30

PDEA takes lead from PNP in drug war

MANILA, Philippines — Amid criticisms of police abuses and accusations of extrajudicial killings related to the drug war, President Duterte has ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead in the administration’s anti-drug campaign.

Duterte directed the Philippine National Police (PNP), along with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as well as the Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Corp. and all other agencies to refrain from spearheading drug operations to avoid conflict.

The Chief Executive’s order also covers all ad hoc anti-drug task forces.

The Oct. 10 memorandum aims at pinpointing “precise accountability” in the anti-drug war that has earned criticisms here and abroad, owing to unwarranted killings of drug personalities.

Duterte said in his memo that the move is aimed at bringing “order to the operation/campaign against illegal drugs, thus pinpointing precise accountability.”

“I hereby direct the NBI, PNP, AFP, Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Office and all other agencies or any and all ad hoc anti-drug task force, to leave to the PDEA, as sole agency, the conduct of all campaigns and operations against all those who, directly or indirectly, and in whatever manner or capacity, are involved in or connected with, illegal drugs,” Duterte said.

PDEA director general Aaron Aquino said the agency is ready and capable to be the sole lead agency in the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“PDEA will accept the challenge as directed by the President. Even with the limited manpower and resources of PDEA, we will take the lead and enlist the support of concerned government agencies that are members of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) pursuant to Executive Order Number 15,” he said in a statement.

PDEA only has 1,038 anti-illegal drug agents in its roster, compared to the 175,000 strong PNP.

The agency’s total personnel is only at 1,898 throughout its national and regional offices.

At the start of his term last year, Duterte had taken a very strong stance against drugs, ordering the police to eradicate the menace and that they have his full support.

Duterte has repeatedly said that the buck stops with him while he parried criticisms of lack of respect for human rights that marred the drug war.

A former Davao City mayor, Duterte openly attacked drug lords, shamed police generals, barangay executives and local government officials whom he tagged in his order of battle.

The campaign led to the killings of Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa on Nov. 5, 2016; alleged drug operators Melvin and Meriam Odicta in December last year; and Ozamiz mayor Reynaldo Parojinog on July 30.

In his memo, Duterte also called on all concerned agencies to coordinate properly with PDEA in case they receive information on illegal drugsoperations or personalities.

“All information/data received by the NBI, PNP, AFP, Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Office and all other agencies or any and all ad hoc anti-drug task forces shall forthwith be relayed, delivered or brought to the attention of the PDEA for appropriate action,” he added.

Duterte, however, pointed out that the PNP shall continue in its mandate of ensuring peace and order all over the country.

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

“Strict compliance is hereby enjoined,” Duterte said.

Malacañang released the memo amid criticisms against Duterte and the PNP for alleged abuses related to the drug war. Human Rights Watch Geneva director John Fisher slammed the police recently for saying that there are no EJKs (extrajudicial killings) under the administration.

Last Tuesday, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella also supported the PNP’s claims that no EJK has been reported, which the police hierarchy based on the definition under Administrative Order No. 35.

As per AO 35, extrajudicial killing has been defined as a killing “wherein the victim was a  member of or affiliated with an organization to include political, environmental, agrarian, labor, similar causes, or an advocate of above-named causes or the media practitioner or persons apparently mistaken or identified to be so.”

“Having said that, let me emphasize that… even one death is one death too many,” Abella said.

“Regardless of the coverage under this definition, deaths related to drug operations or properly clarified as deaths under investigation or DUIs are also being addressed by law enforcement and appropriate actions being taken,” he added.

The PNP will now focus on other crimes and ridding their ranks of scalawags after the President designated the PDEA as the sole agency in the war on drugs.

“We will focus on criminality and internal cleansing,” PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said yesterday, respecting Duterte’s order.

He gave assurance the 175,000 strong PNP is ready to support PDEA if needed.

The PNP has been under fire after a series of incidents in Caloocan City where teenagers suspected to be involved in illegal drugs and other crimes became victims of summary executions allegedly at the hands of police officers.

NBI director Dante Gierran said the bureau would focus on probing other high-profile cases after the President assigned PDEA to be the lead agency in implementing Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

“We welcome Malacañang’s decision as this will give the NBI opportunity to focus on the government’s campaign against corruption, human trafficking and its mandate on investigating cases of unsolved killings,” Gierran said in a statement yesterday.

Policy shift

In an apparent shift of policy, Duterte invoked RA 9165, which mandates PDEA to undertake the enforcement in relation to the unlawful acts and penalties involving dangerous drugs and substances.

The law also empowers PDEA agents to “arrest and apprehend all violators and seize or confiscate the effects or proceeds of crimes” related to drugs.

The PDEA is to monitor and inspect all air cargo packages, parcels and mails in the central post office in coordination with the Bureau of Customs and Philippine Postal Office.

“While it shall not mean to be a diminution of the investigative powers of the NBI and the PNP on all crimes as provided for in their respective organic laws, the law however specifically provides that ‘when the investigation being conducted by the NBI, PNP or any ad hoc anti-drug task force is found to be a violation of any of the provisions of this Act, the PDEA shall be the lead agency,’” the memo said. 
– With Emmanuel Tupas, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Ghio Ong, Romina Cabrera

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