Through the expedient of giving the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) the lead role in all operations in the war on illegal drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte may have found the right response to the many issues bugging his presidency and the drug war.
The new directive is contained in a memorandum the President signed on Oct. 10 but was made public only on Oct. 11. In the memo, the President ordered all concerned government agencies, including the Philippine National Police (PNP), to immediately transfer all case files on the drug campaign to PDEA.
The President’s memorandum said, “I hereby direct the NBI, PNP, Armed Forces, Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Office and all other agencies or any ad hoc anti-drug ask force, to leave to the PDEA the conduct of all campaigns and operations against all those who, directly and indirectly, and in whatever manner or capacity, are involved in or connected with illegal drugs pursuant to RA 9165 and bring order in the campaign against illegal drugs, thus, pinpointing precise accountability.”
Elaborating, the Commander-in-Chief noted that the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law already states that while it does not decimate the investigative powers of the NBI and the PNP on all crimes provided for in their respective organic laws, the PDEA should be the lead agency when the investigation being conducted by the NBI, PNP or any ad hoc anti-drug task force is found in violation of RA 9165. This Act is known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law.
Prior to the issuance of the memorandum, the PNP was implementing an anti-drug operation dubbed as (1) Oplan: Double Barrel, which has two parts: going after high-value targets or big-time drug dealers, and (2) Oplan: Tokhang wherein policemen knock on doors of houses of suspected drug dependents. Many of the controversies have arisen from these campaigns.
The PDEA’s powers as stated in RA 9165 include: carrying out a national anti-drug campaign program, such as drug law enforcement, as well as control and prevention campaign, with the assistance of concerned government agencies; administering oath and issuing subpoena and subpoena duces tecum relative to the conduct of investigation involving violations of RA 9165; arresting and apprehending, as well as searching all violators; and seizing or confiscating effects or proceeds of the crimes as provided by law and taking custody of the effects or proceeds.
The language of the law encompasses many of the activities that the PNP and other agencies have undertaken under the drug war. By now shifting the focus to the work of the PDEA, the President has rightly identified a clear line of accountability in the campaign against illegal drugs.
We endorse this policy, not only because we have advocated it in an earlier editorial but because by this means, the government can bring clarity, order and responsibility in the drug war.
By this means, it can also answer many issues that have been bugging it for nearly a year, such as:
1. Incoherence and violence in the war on drugs;
2. Alleged violations of the rights of victims in the drug war.
3. The clamor of international groups and institutions for an end to the drug killings.
As a result of the memorandum, action from all concerned was quick. The PNP spokesman said the PNP would
not object to playing a secondary role in the war on drugs.
“We will follow the order of the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief,” the spokesman said.
The PNP-Drug Enforcement Group (PNP-DEG) conceded that the order of the President made its police division only secondary in the battle against illegal drugs. “Rest assured, we will abide, submit, support and follow the directive of [the President]to the letter,” the PNP-DEG chief told The Manila Times.
This is as things should be. Hopefully, the other salutary expectations from the President’s order will follow. By leading the anti-drug campaign with purpose and direction, the PDEA will bring order and clarity in the war on drugs.