PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa vowed that the police would be in “full speed with caution” in conducting anti-drug operations, if they were brought back to the drug war.
“We would be in full speed. I don’t care who would be run over, but we would be in full speed with caution,” de la Rosa said in a speech at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he was considering returning the PNP in the driver’s seat of the government’s war against illegal drugs if drug activity and drug-related crimes worsened.
“As of now, just to parry [criticisms], nilagay ko sa (I gave it to) PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency). Whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police because surely it will increase the [drug-related] activity,” Duterte said in a speech before government troops.
De la Rosa said: “Let’s avoid the humps, bumps and barricades, so that the car won’t have scratches.”
From drugs to kidnapping
The PNP chief said the number of rogue policemen had gone down because of the crackdown on illegal drugs.
De la Rosa cited PNP Counter-Intelligence Task Force (CITF) data that showed that the number of policemen reported for criminal activities had decreased from “hundreds” to “10” a day. Internal cleansing of the police force is “working,” he said.
De la Rosa said rogue policemen have shifted to kidnap-for-ransom schemes now that the drug business was “declining.”
“Now that they are out of the drug business, kidnapping is now their racket,” de la Rosa said.
PDEA still leading drug war
On Monday, Malacañang said the government’s war on drugs remained with the PDEA without an order signed by President Duterte allowing the PNP to resume a primary role in the campaign.
Speaking to reporters in Davao City, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte remained “inclined” to return the government’s drug war to PNP, but had yet to make a decision.
“It is safe to reveal that the President, while inclined to return it to the PNP, has not made up completely his mind,” Roque said during a news conference.
“But I will actually seek clarification from the President. Let’s not pressure him, that’s a presidential prerogative,” he said.
The PNP stopped anti-drug operations in January after the October 2016 killing of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo by police officers, right inside the PNP’s Camp Crame headquarters, became public.
Operations “Tokhang” and “Double Barrel” however resumed in March under a new PNP anti-illegal drugs unit.
In October, the President ordered the PDEA to be the lead agency in the campaign against illegal drugs following strong criticisms on the increasing number of deaths involving drug suspects.
with CATHERINE S. VALENTE