President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to exclusively conduct anti-illegal drug operations.
In a memorandum dated October 10 and released on Wednesday, the President noted that all information received by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Office and all other agencies or any and all ad hoc anti-drug task forces should be relayed, delivered or brought to the attention of the PDEA for its appropriate action–all in accordance with the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 9165 or Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law.
The PNP spokesman, Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, reacting to the President’s order, also on Wednesday said they would not object to the police organization playing a secondary role in the war on drugs.
“We will follow the order of the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief,” a text message from Carlos read.
The PNP-Drug Enforcement Group (PNP-DEG) conceded that the order of the President made its police division only secondary in the battle against outlawed drugs.
“As of now, we are on standby for [PNP chief Ronald de la Rosa’s] guidance. Rest assured, we will abide, submit, support and follow the directive of [the President]to the letter,” PNP-DEG chief and Senior Supt. Graciano Mijares said also in a text message to The Manila Times.
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.”
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.
“The PNP should, at all times, maintain police visibility as a deterrent to illegal drug activities, leaving to the PDEA, however, the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations,” he said.
Prior to the issuance of the memorandum, the PNP was implementing an anti-drug operation dubbed as Oplan: Double Barrel, which has two parts: going after high-value targets or big-time drug dealers and Oplan: Tokhang wherein policemen knock on doors of houses of suspected drug dependents.
The PDEA’s powers as provided by the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Law 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 President’s memorandum was issued a week after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that seven out of 10 Filipinos (73 percent) fear that they themselves or someone they know could get killed in the police’s anti-drug operations.
The SWS’ second quarter survey, conducted on June 23 to 26, also showed that 41 percent of the 73 percent are very worried while the remaining 32 percent are somewhat worried.
Also, 90 percent of those surveyed said suspected drug dependents should be captured alive.
Of the 90 percent, 68 percent thought having suspects alive is very important, while 22 percent said it is somewhat important.
The highest percentage of surveyed adults who want drug suspects captured alive is in Metro Manila at 95 percent, followed by Balanced Luzon and Visayas, both at 90 percent.
The percentage in Mindanao–where President Rodrigo Duterte is from–is slightly lower than the rest at 86 percent.
The second quarter poll, a non-commissioned survey, was conducted before the death of three teenagers–Kian de los Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de los Santos–last August.
They were all allegedly killed in anti-drug operations conducted by the Caloocan City police.
The teenagers belonged to the 7,000 to 13,000 drug suspects who died in the past year amid the government’s brutal war on drugs based on accounts of human rights groups.
WITH REPORT FROM RAMON CARBONELL JR.