Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa is in favor of Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito’s proposal to transfer the police’s drug war budget to anti-terrorism efforts.
“Senator JV Ejercito, our budget sponsor, proposed that instead of using the budget to focus on the war on drugs, it should be used in anti-terrorism, which is okay because we can’t afford to have a repeat of the Marawi siege,” de la Rosa told reporters on Friday.
This was in response to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s proposal to divert instead the P1.4-billion drug war budget to the housing needs of the policemen, in addition to the existing P1.6-billion allocation.
“While I admire both proposals, in my opinion, I would rather cater to the pressing needs of the community which is safety and security more than the needs of my policemen,” de la Rosa said.
“So I prefer the proposal to have it diverted toward the anti-terrorism campaign of the PNP,” de la Rosa added.
De la Rosa nonetheless commended Drilon for his suggestion.
“I really admired [Drilon] yesterday, because even if he is a critic of the PNP’s war on drugs, he still looks after the welfare of the police force,” he said.
However, some senators do not want to touch the drug war budget, just in case President Rodrigo Duterte orders the PNP to lead the anti-drug operations anew, de la Rosa said.
In case the PNP is brought back to the drug war, the police will have body cameras to allow transparency and avoid abuses.
“If we were brought to the war on drugs, we would purchase the body cameras,” de la Rosa said.
The PNP chief on Friday admitted there had been a spike in rape cases, and the drug trade came back with a vengeance, after the police were taken off the war on drugs.
In October, de la Rosa officially terminated anti-illegal drug operations under “Oplan Tokhang” and “Oplan Double Barrel,” under heavy international and local pressure amid the killings of thousands of suspects.
The killings of three teenagers, Kian Loyd de los Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman, in August sparked public outrage and drew widespread condemnation.
“Oplan Double Barrel” had two objectives: first, going after high-value targets or big-time drug dealers, and second, “Oplan Tokhang” wherein policemen supposedly only knocked on the houses of drug suspects to convince them to surrender.
Based on PNP records, at least 3,800 people were killed in anti-drug operations.