MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday warned of “grave consequences” after deciding to tone down his fierce war on drugs, which has drawn criticism over alleged human rights abuses.
Duterte recently tapped the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to lead his anti-drug campaign, stripping the Philippine National Police (PNP) of the power.
This as his administration faced unprecedented criticism over the campaign, which saw some 3,800 people killed in presumed legitimate anti-illegal drug operations, per PNP estimates.
The PNP has terminated Oplan Tokhang in the wake of Duterte's order.
In a speech in Dumaguete City, Duterte said his decision may have been welcomed by the Church and human rights groups, but warned that this could have “grave consequences.”
“Silang mga pari, okay lang iyan. You don’t want to see people being killed. Sinugal ko iyan, pero alam ng lahat, ng military pati pulis, the consequences of that could be far more serious,” Duterte said.
“Now, kung kaya ng PDEA — well iyan ang gusto niyo, to pinpoint responsibility, anyway the law says the PDEA will be the lead agency — eh ‘di sige. But that is fraught with so may grave consequences,” he added.
He did not elaborate. The President has earlier linked drug prevalence to criminality.
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.
Duterte signed the memorandum in the wake of the release of several SWS surveys, which showed the public's doubt on the regularity of police anti-drug operations.
As Church and human rights groups welcomed the move to tap PDEA in the war on drugs, PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa warned this could bring setbacks to government efforts to end the drug scourge.
The administration has repeatedly asserted that it was not behind summary killings.