PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night sought a six-month extension to his relentless campaign against illegal drugs, after promising to solve the drug menace in three to six months.
Duterte made the statement after meeting the Norwegian captive freed by the Abu Sayyaf terror and kidnap group in Davao City.
Duterte said he found the three- to six-month timeframe difficult to meet given the “severe” drug problem.
“Just give me a little extension of another six months [to solve the drug problem],” the President said.
On Saturday, Duterte turned over a final list of 1,000 officials involved in illegal drugs to the military.
In reaction, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday said that as far as it was concerned, the Philippine National Police (PNP) was still the lead agency implementing the government’s relentless campaign against illegal drugs.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is in support of the PNP. I’m not substituting the wisdom of the President but in the closed-door discussions that we had with [AFP] Chief of Staff (Gen. Ricardo Visaya) and other ground commanders of the [Philippine Army] 5th Infantry Division, the context of his message when he said ‘I’m giving this to you’ is he is sharing to the Armed Forces that particular list to help or assist the PNP in addressing it,” said Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office.
Since the government launched the campaign against illegal drugs, the military has been giving support to the police especially in areas where police presence is limited.
Arevalo cited in particular an anti-illegal drug operation in North Cotabato where a soldier was killed.
“But in the event that it may be required in the future that we have to be active or play a more active role other than support, and they need more warm bodies since our soldiers are ably trained to perform that particular task, the AFP is ready to assume that role,” the official said.
On whether or not the turnover of the so-called “narco-list” to the AFP will warrant an independent operation by the military, the official said it was up to top AFP and PNP officials to tackle the matter.
While turning over the list, Duterte told military troops at Camp Melchor de la Cruz in Gamu, Isabela, that there’s a chance he might not finish his term because the people on the drug list could have him killed.
“I do not know if I will survive the six years or not. Given the numbers, I can’t kill them all. They can perhaps kill me,” the President said as he showed the folder containing the list.
“Ibigay ko ito sa Armed Forces. Ito ang problema natin [I will give this to the Armed Forces. This is our problem]. I’m just saying that the ultimate warriors of the Constitution, to protect the people, is the Armed Forces of the Philippines. So bahala na kayo [Now it is up to you],” he added.