MANILA – Less than a month after he suspended his controversial war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte announced during a press conference in Malacanang on Tuesday, Feb. 28, that he was resuming the all-out war that had claimed more than 7,000 lives.
The president had suspended the nationwide police action last month after the killing of Korean executive Jee Ick Joo by anti-drug operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) inside Camp Crame.
Duterte told PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa – whom he had ordered to conduct a cleansing of the police -- to form task forces at all stations for anti-drug operations.
He said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will still lead the anti-drug operations.
“I asked Bato to recruit young men in the PNP who are imbued with the fervor of patriotism to be the members only of the task forces. Every station should have one. Pero iyong piling-pili. Iyong mga walang kaso at walang history ng korapsyon,” President Duterte said, following Monday’s joint command conference of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and PNP in the palace.
“I have to do it because kulang ako ng tao. And I am also fighting again with the NPAs and I have this problem in Mindanao about terrorism and drugs. So kailangan ko ng tao. I have to call back the police again to do the job most of the time sa drugs. Hindi lahat,” he said.
More than 7,000 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed since Mr. Duterte assumed the presidency seven months ago, resulting in criticism from church groups, as well as international and local human rights organizations.
The resumption of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs coincides with a return to hostilities with the
underground Left following the collapse of peace talks last month.
The president also said he was not inclined to resume peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front, saying he would first think about it “a thousand times.”
Rogue cops go AWOL
Last week, 53 cops who had derogatory records were flown to Basilan for reassignment. Some 200 other policemen did not show up for their new assignment, with the PNP chief saying he had signed the dismissal order for the AWOL cops.
“And it’s going to be a PDEA-supervised, whether done by the military or the police. There should always be a PDEA who will be supervising everything,” Duterte said.
When asked whether the PNP's Oplan Tokhang will also be back, Duterte said: “I will leave it to the police to decide. If that is the best way to do it, fine.”
PDEA chief Isidro Lapeña said the government's anti-narcotics operations dropped by 75 percent since Duterte pulled the PNP from his war on drugs.
Lapeña believes the PDEA cannot sustain the war on drugs because of an apparent lack in manpower.
According to feedback from local government units, Lapeña said street pushing has returned in barangays after the PNP was removed from the drug war.
He added PDEA could not win the war on drugs if it was responsible for anti-drug operations in the barangay level, for reducing supply and demand, and for implementing education strategies. — With additional reports from GMA News