MANILA - The head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has admitted Friday that the organization was short in manpower and would still need to tap police reinforcements in their operations.
"The PNP will be on the outer cordon of operations. Support na lang... kung in case magkaroon ng firefight doon at ma-pin down ang mga tropa ko," PDEA chief, Aaron Aquino told ANC's Headstart.
(They would provide support in case a firefight ensures and my troops are pinned down)
Aquino said the 2,000-strong PDEA will also need the help of Barangay Drug Abuse Council to go after street-level drug peddlers.
Aquino said he hopes leadership of the drug war would be transferred back the PNP soon, in light of PDEA's weaker manpower.
"Sana temporary lang ito kasi talagang based on the strength ng PDEA, talagang mahihirapan kami, to be honest," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered PDEA to take the lead in the crackdown on narcotics, putting the Philippine National Police in the backseat as it faced allegations of abuse in the drug war.
PNP data showed 3,800 people have been killed in operations in which police say armed suspects resisted arrest. Duterte's opponents and activists disputed that, saying executions and cover-ups were commonplace.
BODYCAMS AND MORE
To guard against irregularity in their operations, Aquino said he ordered PDEA agents to wear body cameras and invited journalists and non-government organizations to accompany them.
"There's a right procedure in conducting police intervention. So with us, ganoon din. Dapat ma-supervise nang maayos. Otherwise, iyung mga tao natin sa baba magiging trigger-happy pagdating sa operations," he added.
(There's a right procedure in conducting police intervention. The same is true for us. Our men should be supervised properly. Otherwise, our operatives on the ground could be trigger-happy during operations)
He then urged police leaders to investigate why many of their anti-narcotics operations have led to armed encounter and the deaths of hundreds of drug suspects.
"Maybe the PNP can review their police operational procedures, if they are being followed, especially doon sa police station level," Aquino said.
"Dapat tingnan nila kung anong nagiging problema kung bakit nagkakaroon lagi ng armed encounter during operations," he added.
(Maybe the PNP can review their police operational procedures, if they are being followed, especially at the police station level. They should look at why armed encounter always erupts during their operations.)
During PDEA operations at least 28 drug suspects have been killed since July 1, 2016.
PDEA will also deploy agents to airports, sea ports and the New Bilibid Prison, which are believed to be sources of illicit drugs, Aquino said in a separate ABS-CBN interview.
The PDEA chief said he has also asked the Senate for additional funds to recruit 1,500 agents.
Aquino himself was a police official for 36 years before Duterte appointed him to PDEA in August.
Under his watch as director of the Central Luzon police, 32 people were killed in 24 hours of simultaneous anti-drug operations in Bulacan province last August 15.
Aquino said he had immediately ordered an investigation into the incident before he was transferred to PDEA.