President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to return to the government’s war on illegal drugs but in a supporting role, with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) keeping the lead overall in the campaign.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte has signed a memorandum allowing the PNP “to resume, providing active support to the PDEA in the conduct of anti-illegal drugs operations.”
“This supersedes the earlier memorandum that designated the PDEA as the sole agency that will deal with the anti-illegal drug operations,” Roque told reporters in a news briefing.
The drug enforcement agency took over the reins of the campaign in October amid growing public concern over drug-related killings during police operations.
“The PDEA remains the lead but the PNP will again participate in the anti-illegal drug operations,” he added.
He said the President issued the order “in response to a clamor from the public to restore to the PNP and other law enforcement agencies the responsibility of providing active support to the PDEA.”
“There has been a notable resurgence in illegal drug activities and crimes since the PNP and other law enforcement agencies were directed to leave to the PDEA the conduct of all anti-illegal campaigns and operations,” he said.
Other law enforcement agencies, including the National Bureau of Investigation, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Postal Corporation were also directed to provide support to the PDEA in the conduct of the anti-narcotics campaign.
“The President recognizes the significant strides PDEA has made in the government’s anti-illegal campaign but it has been seriously hampered in performing its huge mandate by lack of resources, specifically agents and operatives who can penetrate drug-infected areas down to the municipal and barangay levels,” Roque said.
He explained that while PNP and other law enforcement agencies will provide active support in the campaign against illegal drugs, the PDEA, as head of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, “shall coordinate all government efforts in this regard.” “The Dangerous Drugs Board shall remain as the policy-making and strategy formulating body in the planning and formulation of policies and programs on drug prevention and control,” Roque said.
Duterte had ordered the PDEA to lead the anti-drug campaign after the PNP was heavily criticized for the killing of two teenage drug suspects during successive police operations earlier this year.
Policemen claimed that Kian delos Santos, 17, was a drug runner who fought arresting officers but witnesses said the teenager was executed.
Carl Arnaiz, 19, was shot dead after robbing a taxi driver. Several witnesses, including the taxi driver, claimed to have witnessed the killing.
The President tasked the PNP to lead the drug war when he assumed office in July 2016.
In February, however, Duterte removed the power from the police to go after drug suspects after some policemen were linked to a series of “tokhang for ransom.” After a month, the President again tapped the PNP, claiming the drug problems continued.