MANILA -- Agents of the 1200-strong Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) are sacrificing sleep and time with their family as they lead President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-narcotics drive, an official said Sunday.
Duterte ordered the PDEA in October to take the lead in the campaign, putting the 170,000-strong Philippine National Police (PNP) in the backseat as it faced allegations of abuse in the drug war.
"Talagang sakripisyo po ang ginagawa ng ating agents... Halos iyung mga ahente natin, hindi na natutulog, hindi na umuuwi," Ismael Fajardo Jr., chief of PDEA-Metro Manila, told DZMM.
(Our agents are really making a sacrifice. They are losing sleep and are no longer going home.)
Despite this, PDEA remains committed to its mandate, Fajardo said.
"Sabi nga ng aming director general, kahit kami ay kakaunti, kakayanin namin ang problema na ito dahil sa aming balikat nakaatang," he added.
(Just like what our director general said, we may be few, but we can weather this problem because it has been entrusted to us.)
With the help of village officials and cops, the PDEA has mounted around 1,000 operations since taking over the war on drugs, yielding an average of 3 to 5 cases filed daily, said Fajardo.
He noted that PDEA operations were less bloody than police efforts, which have seen some 3,800 drug suspects killed after they allegedly resisted arrest.
"Sa negotiation pa lang o surveillance or case build-up operation, makikita niyo naman kung armado sila. 'Pag hindi naman sila armado, ang guidance po ng aming director general, kapag hindi lumaban, arestuhin lang," he said.
"Pag lumaban, hindi naman po papayag siguro ang PDEA na ang PDEA ang mamatayan."
(In the negotiation, surveillance or case build-up operations, you'd already see if they are armed. If they are not, our director general's guidance is to arrest them. But if they fight, the PDEA would not allow its agents to be killed.)
PDEA director general Aaron Aquino previously said his agency will need a budget of at least P5 billion and an additional 1,000 to 1,500 personnel each year, aside from additional equipment, in order to effectively combat illegal drugs.
Duterte, meanwhile, expressed doubt that the PDEA can handle the drug menace. If the problem worsens, he said he will return the jurisdiction of the war on drugs to the PNP. -- With Michael Delizo, ABS-CBN News