The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has failed to curb the drug problem as far as President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday.
Roque noted that the President is thinking of returning the campaign against illegal drugs to the Philippine National Police.
In early October, Duterte tasked the PDEA to lead the anti-drug campaign amid the public furor over the killing of teenagers by policemen.
“We need to accept what the President has said. He does not want the problem to worsen. I do not know if a formal directive has been issued but effectively, he has manifested the decision to return it to the PNP already.
The President is not satisfied [with PDEA]. He wants more,” Roque told reporters.
He did not cite figures to show that the drug problem has worsened.
From October 10 to November 10, the PDEA conducted 1,341 anti-drug operations resulting in the arrest of 404 drug personalities and the seizure of dangerous drugs worth P53.83 million.
Roque could not say if the PDEA’s performance in two months is enough to judge the agency.
“That’s the President’s call. If he thinks it must be returned [to the jurisdiction of the police, then it must be that the PDEA has been given enough time,” Roque said.
PDEA welcomes decision
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said the PNP can take over the campaign against drugs.
He said the agency only has 1,791 personnel, 928 of whom are drug enforcement officers who are deployed in regional offices across the country.
"PDEA has repeatedly admitted that it is undermanned, under budget, and under-equipped, hence, the need for other law enforcement agencies particularly the PNP,” Aquino said.
PDEA spokesman Derrick Carreon said if the drug fight is transferred to the PNP, the PDEA "would still help in intelligence gathering and augmenting.”
Carreon said the PDEA will continue to conduct operations against high-value targets and man drug hotspots like seaports and airports.
Since the agency took over the drug war, only one drug suspect has been killed. This was former Army soldier Roel Valcurza Sahiron, who was shot dead by PDEA agents on October 18 in Davao del Norte.
With the PNP as the lead agency, at least 7,000 people have been killed in the government’s anti-drug operations.
On Tuesday, in a speech before League of Cities General Assembly with mayors as audience, Duterte vowed that his drug war will be unrelenting and that he would not hesitate to bring back the police in anti-drug operations.
"I will never stop the drug war. If it gets worse, I will give it back to the police. I don’t care about opinions. To hell with them. It is my job. I have a job to do,” Duterte said.
Deputy Director Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch-Asia Division viewed the President’s statement as an endorsement of unabated killings.
"Brace for more bloodshed. That’s the key takeaway from a speech Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made today,” Kine said in a statement.
"The Duterte government’s apparent desire to resume the murderous drug war underscores the need for a United Nations-led international investigation into the killings. Until that happens, the number of victims denied justice and accountability will likely only continue to grow,” Kine added.
Meanwhile, the PNP said it is ready to go back to the drug war.
"The PNP is always ready to embrace any task to be given by our chief executive,” PNP Deputy Spokesman Superintendent Vimelee Madrid said in a press briefing.
Madrid downplayed speculations that the drug war would again be bloody and violent.
"We are really trying to avoid [violence]. However, PNP chief [Ronald dela R[Ronald dela Rosa]police officers’ life are at risk, then we have to defend ourselves also,” Madrid said.
with RJ CARBONELL