President Rodrigo Duterte has warned of “grave consequences” after he made the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) the “sole agency” in charge of handling his bloody war on drugs.
In a speech in Dumaguete City on Friday night, Duterte acknowledged that the people’s aversion to the drug-related killings was the reason he decided to tone down his fierce war on drugs.
“If the PDEA can carry it, well ‘yan ang gusto ninyo (that’s what you want), to pinpoint the responsibility and anyway, the law says it’s the PDEA who would be the lead agency. O ‘di sige. But that is fraught with so many grave consequences,” Duterte warned.
“Sinugal ko ‘yan pero alam ng lahat, ng military pati pulis, the consequences of that could be far more serious (I gambled on that, but the whole military and police know that the consequences of that could be far more serious),” he added.
Duterte, however, said priests and human rights groups have “appreciated” his decision.
“I do not want to strike fear in your hearts. I have decided to call off drug operations except in one sole agency, the PDEA. ‘Yung nakaalam sa problema (Those who know the problena), ‘cause I got a message from Villegas through a friend, pari rin (he’s also a priest). He said that we are starting to heal,” the President said, referring to Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“Silang mga pari, okay lang ‘yan. Alam ninyo na you do not want to see people being killed… Ayaw ko nang ikwento because I do not want anybody, you know the magnitude of drugs,” he added.
On Thursday, Duterte ordered PDEA to become the sole agency tasked to carry out the war on drugs, implementating Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
The President said in a speech on Thursday night that his decision was meant to satisfy “bleeding hearts” and foreign critics meddling with the death toll from his drug campaign.
He said the public could expect a “better” situation in addressing the drug menace in the country since he named PDEA as the “sole agency” in charge of the anti-narcotics war.
“Let’s see. It would just be the PDEA which has to [operate the drug war]. And I will again reiterate, do not interfere, just let the PDEA do it alone and let us see [what will happen],” Duterte said.
“In PDEA, only a few died [in the drug war]. So there will only be a few casualties in the other party [drug personalities]… This is better –or better-er, do you say? Here, there will be no casualty, no encounter. Better for the bleeding hearts and media. I hope I satisfy you,” he added.
Duterte’s order came on the heels of controversial drug operations carried out by the (Philippine National Police) PNP, which resulted in hundreds of deaths of suspects.
The President’s brutal crackdown on narcotics sale earned the public’s ire after at least three teenagers were killed in drug raids.
In January, Duterte suspended the PNP’s war on illicit drug trade after the abduction and slay of Korean businessman Jee Ick-Joo in October by policemen in the guise of the drug war.
In an executive order issued in March, the President mandated the PNP to support PDEA’s fight against illegal drugs.
‘PDEA now being demonized’
Malacañang also hit Amnesty International after the group criticized Duterte’s decision
to put PDEA in charge of the government war on drugs.
James Gomez, the watchdog’s international director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, such move could just be a “short-term” public relations stint meant to appease the growing opposition to it.
“The PDEA, which has been recently assigned by PRRD (Duterte) as the sole agency in charge of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, is now being demonized by Amnesty International,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“While Amnesty International is known to be disparaging of the frontline role of the PNP in the anti-illegal drug campaign, now it sees the relief of the agency as a mere public relations stunt. PDEA is the new object of AI’s, and similar groups’ ire and vilification,”
Nevertheless, Abella said the government would proceed in its drive to make the Philippines a crime-, corruption- and illegal drug-free nation.
“We are hopeful that operations of this agency will not be jeopardized by the interference of outside agencies that fail to appreciate our desire, not for a drug- tolerant, but drug-free nation,” he added.
According to the PNP, the anti-narcotics police have conducted 76,863 anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to September 26, 2017.
The operations resulted in the death of 3,906 drug personalities and the arrest of 113,932. It added that as of July 25, 2017, the police have facilitated over 1.3 million surrenders.
Over 3,500 barangays (villages) have been cleared of drugs as of August 31, 2017, the PNP said.
The operations, however, also caused the death of 85 law enforcers, while 225 were injured.