MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said Thursday it welcomes President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that he may soon bring back the police force to the anti-narcotics campaign.
"It has been the desire of PDEA that PNP (Philippine National Police) will return in the fight against illegal drugs," PDEA said in a statement.
"PDEA has repeatedly admitted that it is undermanned, under budget and under-equipped, hence, the need for other law enforcement agencies, particularly the PNP," it added.
Speaking to ANC on Thursday, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said he has yet to speak with Duterte, but from his understanding, the President intends to bring the PNP back to the helm of the anti-drug campaign.
"It doesn't matter for me...whether the PDEA or the PNP would take the lead," he said, noting that all law enforcement agencies are encouraged to help curb the spread of illegal drugs.
Duterte last month tasked the 2,000-strong PDEA to take the lead in crushing illegal drugs just as the roughly 175,000-strong PNP faced allegations of abuse while executing Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign.
But barely a month since PDEA assumed the lead role, the President on Wednesday announced that he plans to bring the police force back to the frontlines of the drug war to prevent the illegal drug trade from thriving anew.
"But as of now, just to parry, nilagay ko sa PDEA. But whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police because, surely, it will increase the activity of the shabu,” Duterte said.
The campaign against illegal drugs has been one of the core programs of the Duterte administration.
The administration has many times defended the bloody campaign, which has been heavily criticized locally and internationally. Officials have said the 3,800 drug suspects slain in anti-drug operations since July 2016 had put up violent resistance, warranting police response.