MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead in the anti-drug campaign, putting the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the back seat just as it faced allegations of abuse in the drug war.
In a memorandum signed Tuesday, Duterte stressed PDEA's lead role in the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations as tasked under the anti-drug law, mandating other law enforcement agencies to defer to the agency.
Clarifying PDEA's mandate aims “to bring order” to the campaign and “[pinpoint] precise accountability,” Duterte's memorandum read.
It said that when investigation being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the PNP or any ad hoc anti-drug task force is found to be in violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, “the PDEA shall be the lead agency.”
“The NBI, PNP or any of the task force[s] shall immediately transfer the same (investigation) to the PDEA,” the memorandum read.
“I hereby direct the NBI, PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Office and all other agencies or any and all ad hoc anti-drug task force[s] to leave to the PDEA, as sole agency, the conduct of all campaigns and operations against all those who, directly or indirectly, and in whatever manner or capacity, are involved in or connected with, illegal drugs,” the President said in his memorandum.
The memorandum also mandates the said agencies to relay, deliver or bring to the attention of PDEA any information or data they will receive concerning the illegal drug trade.
It said that while police should still maintain visibility “as a deterrent to illegal drug activities”, it should leave to the PDEA the conduct of anti-drug operations.
The government has many times defended Duterte’s war on drugs, which has claimed the lives of about 3,800 people in legitimate police operations, according to police statistics. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano recently said all those slain were drug peddlers.
Human rights groups, however, estimate that the death toll in the war on drugs could be as high as 13,000, a figure dismissed by the government as overblown.
The PNP also recently said there were no cases of extrajudicial killings in the country.
Duterte signed the memorandum in the wake of the release of SWS survey results which showed the public's doubt on the regularity of police anti-drug operations.
A June survey of the SWS showed that 60 percent of Filipinos believe that only poor suspected drug pushers are being killed in the war on drugs.
The survey showed that most of those who agreed with the statement “rich drug pushers are not killed; only the poor ones are killed” were in Metro Manila at 48 percent, followed by Mindanao at 34 percent, Visayas at 31 percent and Balance Luzon at 29 percent.
Another SWS poll showed that most Filipinos (63 percent) believe drug suspects are still killed even after surrender.
Yet another survey revealed that 54 percent of Filipinos agree that many of those killed in the drug war did not fight it out with police.
The SWS said 90 percent of Filipinos also want drug suspects caught alive.
The President's memorandum also came in the wake of a decline in his satisfaction and trust ratings, from the previous 66 (very good) to 48 (good), according to an SWS survey conducted from Sept. 23 to 27.
Critics attributed the drop to the government’s war on drugs, noting that Duterte's satisfaction and trust ratings dipped among the masses.
Police have been heavily criticized over the deaths of teenagers Kian Loyd delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo De Guzman allegedly in suspicious operations.
In January, the President had ordered the PNP to step back and allow the PDEA to take the lead in the war on drugs following the death of South Korea Jee Ick-joo allegedly in the hands of police officials.
A month later, he ordered the PNP to go back to conducting anti-illegal drug operations, citing the resurgence of the drug trade on the streets.
The PDEA has a significantly smaller manpower and budget compared to the PNP.
The PNP has a budget solely for its anti-illegal drug operations worth P900 million, which forms part of its P131.3 billion proposed budget for 2018.
The PDEA, on the other hand, has a proposed P2.59 billion budget for next year.