PNP chiefs in Luzon support change in anti-drug protocol

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The police provincial directors in Zambales, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to dissolve all anti-narcotic units of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and create a centralized body instead.

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Zambales PNP chief, Senior Supt. Christopher Mateo said, “Yes we’ve been notified of the plan and I think it’s good because it would result in better coordination among our men.”

Police officials in Olongapo City are yet to issued any comment on the President’s order as of Monday.

The President announced the dismantling of all anti-illegal drug units in the PNP in the wake of a scandal involving the kidnapping and murder of a South Korean businessman allegedly by PNP men inside the national police headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City in October last year.

Director General Ronald dela Rosa also on Monday ordered all PNP units to stop anti-illegal drug operations nationwide while the organization focuses on “internal cleansing.”

“We have to focus our efforts toward internal cleansing. And by the time we have cleansed the PNP, the President will determine that and he will instruct us to go back to the war on drugs,” dela Rosa said, adding, “ But right now, no more drug operations.”

Duterte said he wants jail wardens to shape up or ship out.

He asked for a list of policemen with cases but have been reinstated and suggested that they may be sent to terrorist-infested Basilan in southern Philippines.

Aside from declaring war against ISIS (Islamic Sate in Iraq and Syria) groups in Mindanao, the President said the war against drugs will continue until end of his term.

With the President’s order, the only government agency in charge now of running after illegal drugs and dealers is the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Duterte intends to create a “narco police” command to weed out police involved in the drug trade.
According to reports, over 7,000 have been killed since the Duterte administration launched its highly controversial war on drugs in July last year.

Change in protocols

In Camp Macabulos, Tarlac City the police force signaled its openness to uphold changes in protocols in light of Duterte’s order to dissolve the organization’s anti-narcotics units and instead create a centralized one.

“It’s okay. It will pave the way to create a dedicated team that will handle operations on illegal drugs,” city police chief Supt. Bayani Razalan said.

That way, Razalan added, the President would be able to execute orders directly in his administration’s drive against the illegal drugs menace, and on the sidelines, rid the PNP of corrupt officers.

“It will give the President the hand to choose men who will be loyal to their mandate in their exclusive tasks of eliminating illegal drugs trade in the country,” he said.

San Jose police chief, Supt. Sonny Silva, expressed the same sentiments about following orders from Duterte and the PNP hierarchy.

“We support the President and our [PNP] chief in their peace and order campaign,” he said.

At this writing, Tarlac police provincial director Senior Supt. Westrimund Obinque is expected to echo Duterte’s marching orders to the PNP during a command conference with chiefs of police in the province as cleansing in their ranks pushes through.

Obinque was not available for comment and, other than hearing accomplishment reports from police chiefs from the province’s 17 towns and the city during the conference, is awaiting directives from higher ranks in the regional office.

‘Tokhang’ suspension

In Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, drug pushers and users were upbeat after hearing news that Duterte disbanded the anti-drug units and suspended “Oplan Tokhang” nationwide

Central Luzon Police Director Aaron Aquino told The Manila Times they will resume the operation after an internal cleansing within its ranks of rogue policemen who were directly involved in the guise of “Oplan Tokhang.”

Among these include the recent expose on policemen in Angeles City, Pampanga, involved in kidnap-for-ransom, arrest and extortion for allegedly selling drugs, as well as police officers who acted as protectors of drug dealers.

Similarly, Palayan City (Nueve Ecija) chief of police Chief Insp. Arnel Santiago said the provincial headquarters has advised them to stop “Oplan Tokhang.”

Instead, they will enforce “Lambat Sibat” operations for the crimes of rape, murder, homicide and crime against property robbery, motor and car theft.

Aliaga town (Nueve Ecija) chief of police, Chief Insp. Rex Perocho, said he received a text message from the provincial PNP headquarters saying, “Stop anti-drug campaign, no arresting of drug traffickers effective today Monday.”

He added that they are, however, allowed to arrest suspected drug pushers and users under “Oplan Sita” (checkpoint) or anyone caught in actual possession of illegal drugs.

Cabanatuan City chief of police Supt. Wilfredo Zapra said drug pushers expected to enjoy selling drugs in the city because police were advised to keep their hands off the drug suspects.

Aquino reported that of 130,000 surrenderers, about 6,000 have undergone reformatory sessions; of these, 324 persons have fully recovered and rehabilitated.

At least, 6,000 have graduated from different technical courses.

The villages in Central Luzon are now 83 percent drug-free, Aquino said.

with JERRY M. HERNANDEZ AND CELSO M. CAJUCOM

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