Duterte allows PNP's return to war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) is back in the Duterte administration's war against illegal drugs.

President Rodrigo Duterte said he decided, during a February 27 command conference, to allow limited participation of the police in his controversial anti-drug campaign.

He has ordered smaller police task forces to help implement the drug war, aside from the military.

The difference from the PNP's Oplan TokHang? The new task forces will be composed of police personnel with no history of corruption.

"I have ordered Bato to recruit young men in the PNP imbued with the fervor of patriotism to be the members only of the task forces. Every station should have one pero piling-pili, 'yung walang kaso at walang history ng corruption (but only a select few, those without cases and without a history of corruption)," said Duterte during a press conference on Tuesday, February 28.

The President said he was driven to this decision because of the lack of military personnel to handle other conflicts, such as the offensive against the New People's Army and terrorists in Mindanao.

"I have to do it because I lack personnel. I am also, I said, fighting also the NPA and I have this probem in Mindanao about terrorism and drugs so I need personnel. I have to call back the police again to do the job, most of the time, in the war on drugs," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The military has already promised to create a task force of 500 soldiers to join the government's war on drugs.

Duterte's announcement comes 4 weeks after he suspended the PNP's involvement in the war on drugs following the kidnap and murder of a South Korean businessman, which was allegedly carried out by cops. Back then, the President said he wanted the PNP to first rid its ranks of corrupt personnel.

PDEA still leads

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will continue to lead the drug war. Anti-drug operations by the new police task forces will be supervised by PDEA.

"It's going to be PDEA-supervised, whether done by the military or the police," said Duterte.

There will be task forces for every city or municipality. The number of personnel per task force will depend on the size of the area.

Still, it will be up to the PNP to choose the best time to return to the drug war.

"I will leave it to the police to decide," said Duterte.

The government's campaign against illegal drugs has been linked to over 7,000 deaths. Of this, more than 3,600 are still being investigated. Over 2,500 occurred during police operations. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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