PNP vows 'extreme caution' in possible drug war return

Jamaine Punzalan and Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 27 2017 02:16 PM

A policeman documents a self-confessed drug user who voluntarily surrendered to the police on their "Operation Tokhang (approach and talk)" in Pasig, September 15, 2016. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday promised to exercise "extreme caution" if the leadership of the anti-narcotics drive is returned to policemen. 

"Sana kung ibalik ito sa atin, sana wala na tayong problema. Pangalawang beses na itong tinanggal at ibabalik sa atin. Pangatlong phase na ito kung sakali, sana perfect na ito," PNP chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said during a flag ceremony at Camp Crame. 

"We will be proceeding at full speed, but with extreme caution. We have learned a lot of lessons already," he added. 

Malacañang on Monday however said President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to put PNP back at the forefront of the war on drugs was not yet final.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. noted that Duterte has yet to sign any document bringing back the PNP as the lead agency in the drug war. Until this document is signed, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will continue to take the lead role in the campaign.

“The President, while inclined to return it to the PNP, has not made up completely is mind. I guess until the document is signed by him, it remains with PDEA,” Roque said in a news conference in Davao City.

Roque also asked the public not to “pressure” the President in deciding whether to indeed bring back the PNP to his popular yet highly criticized campaign.

Duterte issued on October 10 a memorandum circular ordering the 2,000-strong PDEA to take the lead in the anti-drug campaign just as the roughly 175,000-strong PNP faced allegations of abuse in the drug war.

The President’s decision was made amid growing criticism against the PNP following the spate of teenager deaths in anti-drug raids in Metro Manila.

The October order prompted the PNP to terminate the controversial "Oplan Tokhang," its house-to-house knock and plead operations against drug suspects. It said it would shift to cleansing its ranks and addressing other crimes.

Duterte first put policemen in the backseat of the war on drugs in February after several officers were tagged in the abduction and murder of Korean Jee Ick-Joo inside Camp Crame. 

Duterte last week said he would soon bring back the PNP to the war on drugs. 

-- With Bianca Dava and Henry Atuelan, ABS-CBN News