Duterte takes hands-off approach on drug war

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 23 2017 03:19 PM | Updated as of Nov 07 2017 08:50 AM

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he has asked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) not to give him reports on the agency’s efforts against the illegal drug problem, as he continues to adopt a hands-off approach on his much-criticized campaign.

Duterte earlier ordered the PDEA to take the lead in the heightened campaign against narcotics. 

"I told PDEA not to provide me reports. I don't know if it is really the right path but that’s what I thought of. Leave it that way," Duterte said in a mix of Bisaya and English during his speech at the wake of the late Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

Duterte, however, said he will remain hands-on with other pressing national concerns, such as terrorism and criminality.

"But for terrorism and other crimes… Just like in Manila, there are lots of problems. We have to deal with it as a serious problem of government,” he said.

The President earlier warned of “grave consequences” after he decided to tap the PDEA as the lead agency in the war on drugs, relegating the 200,000-strong Philippine National Police to a supporting role. 

This is not the first time Duterte pulled the PNP out of the war on drugs.

In January, the President 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 at the hands of police officers.

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 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.