MANILA - The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Monday said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is the proper agency under the law to take the lead in the government's anti-drug campaign.
This comes after President Rodrigo Duterte said he might put the Philippine National Police (PNP) back as the lead agency in handling the drug problem if the current situation worsens.
"Nakatakda sa batas that the primary law enforcement agency, actually the specialized agency, to deal with drugs is PDEA. If the PNP should have a role in it, only in support and always in coordination with PDEA," IBP President Atty. Adiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said in a press conference.
"Kaya kami nabigla na on July 1, 2016, PNP issued a circular saying it is launching the Oplan Double Barrel. This was not vetted by DDB (Dangerous Drugs Board), PDEA. It seems to be a unilateral declaration of PNP that it is the primary [office] to address the drug problem," he added.
Fajardo said Congress, through the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, had recognized that the drug problem is not just an issue of criminality but also a health and social problem.
"Yung wisdom na yun, parang sa isang iglap, nabalewala sa Oplan Double Barrel," he said.
Fajardo also called on prosecutors to maintain their independence, knowledge of the law, and objectivity, in assessing evidence before them.
Duterte in October ordered the PDEA to take the lead in the anti-drug campaign, putting the police force in the back seat as it faced allegations of abuse in the drug war.
In January, the President had also 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 P900-million budget solely for its anti-illegal drug operations, 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. - with a report by Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News