PNP Chief: PDEA lead in drug war shows 'President isn't a dictator'

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Highlights

  • Dela Rosa: President's decision to give PDEA drug war lead was due to surveys
  • Dela Rosa says PNP lowered President's ratings
  • Dela Rosa concerned about PDEA manpower in war on drugs
  • Police use administrative order, not Supreme court definition of EJKs

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 13) — The turnover of the drug war to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is proof President Rodrigo Duterte listens, the country's top cop said Friday.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa told CNN Philippines' The Source that the President was affected by the drop in his trust and satisfaction ratings.

"Frustrated si Presidente sa mga nega reactions ng taong bayan. It goes to show na si Presidente, hindi diktador, na nakiramdam siya sa pulso ng taong bayan," Dela Rosa said.

"Kung totoong sentimiento ng general public ang lumabas sa survey, sabi ni Presidente, 'Well, I am working for the Filipino people.' Kung ano ang gusto ng taong bayan, dissatisfied sila sa war on drugs, eh hinto natin," he added.

(Translation: The President is frustrated by the people's negative reactions. It goes to show he's not a dictator, he feels the pulse of the people. If the true sentiments of the general public come out in the survey, the President says, 'Well, I am working for the Filipino people.' Whatever the people want; if they are dissatisfied with the war on drugs, then let's stop it.")

The comment comes after Duterte instructed PDEA on October 10 to take the lead in drug operations, previously handled by the police.

Related: Duterte: PDEA has fewer deaths, injuries in operations

The day before the turnover to PDEA, the latest Social Weather Stations survey reflected a dip in satisfaction ratings of the President to "good" from "very good" and trust ratings of "very good" from "excellent."

While SWS found 77 percent of Filipinos supported the drug war, its previous surveys showed 9 in 10 wanted suspects alive, 60 percent believed only the poor were affected by the drug war, and a majority thought people were still killed despite surrendering.

The police chief said the President is only following the law.

"Sinusunod lang niya yung batas. Sabi ng batas, PDEA ang mauna, so PDEA ang mauna [He's just following the law. It says PDEA will lead, so PDEA will lead]," said Dela Rosa.

When asked why PDEA didn't lead the operations since the launch of the war on drugs, he replied, "Hindi nga kaya ng PDEA [PDEA couldn't handle it]."

However, he also said he understands why the police were stripped of the responsibility following criticism of police abuse and misconduct.

"Inaako ko inaamin ko na kasalanan namin yung pagbaba ng trust rating ni Presidente," said Dela Rosa.

"Kagagawan namin, dahil meron kaming mga miyembro na gumagawa ng hindi maganda... We pulled the President down," he added.

(Translation: I take responsibility for it I admit we are at fault for the President's lower trust ratings... because we have members who do bad things... We pulled the President down.)

Related: Slain minor Kian not as innocent as you think - PNP Chief

According to police figures, almost 4,000 have died in police operations since the war on drugs. However, human rights watchdogs estimate as many as 13,000 dead in both police operations and vigilante-style killings.

In a separate survey released Friday, research company Pulse Asia revealed that Filipinos' trust in the President still remained high.

Related: Duterte maintains high approval, trust scores – Pulse Asia

'Mixed emotions' on turnover

Dela Rosa said that while he was "happy" to rest, he had mixed emotions when the President informed him of the drug war shift two days before its announcement.

"Happy ako pero mixed emotions, may halong kalungkutan dahil we have devoted yung aming energy, yung aming resources for the last [year and a half], nakafocus doon sa war on drugs," he said.

(Translation: I was happy, but I have mixed emotions. There's a bit of sadness because we devoted our energy, our resources for the last [year and a half] on the war on drugs.)

He added that the police had grown "attached" to anti-drug operations Oplan Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang.

The police chief also expressed reservations about PDEA's capabilities to take on the drug war in terms of manpower, saying the police would leave behind a "vacuum."

"Right now we are 185,000 yung policemen ko, nakatutok sa war on drugs. Tapos biglang magback off. Then ang maiiwan doon yung 1,700 na PDEA, kasama pa dun yung mga administrative personnel nila na hindi dapat pumupunta sa field," said Dela Rosa.

(Translation: Right now, there are 185,000 policemen working for the war on drugs, and they'll suddenly back off. The ones left behind will be 1,700 people from PDEA, including administrative personnel who shouldn't be on the field.)

Wrong definition of EJKs?

Dela Rosa also maintained that there was no such thing as extra-legal or extrajudicial killings, only "homicides under investigation."

He said the police operated on a definition of extra-legal killings provided by Administrative Order 35, signed by former President Benigno Aquino III.

The order created the inter-agency committee on extra-legal killings, following accusations of violence and intimidation against "civil society, cause-oriented groups, political movements, people's and non-government organizations, and by ordinary citizens" by state and non-state forces.

Critics have pointed out that the characterization of extra-legal killings in the order was contextual and not a comprehensive definition.

However, a 2007 Supreme Court ruling said suspects killed without due process were covered by extra-legal killings. In the Writ of Amparo, the high court wrote the definition included "the illegal taking of life regardless of the motive, summary and arbitrary executions, 'salvagings' even of suspected criminals."

When informed of this, Dela Rosa said, "Kung iyan ang basehan natin, we should take each case independently, separately. Hindi yung lahat ng namatay sabihin mo, [extrajudicial killings]."

(Translation: If that is our basis, we should take each case independently, separately, not lump all the deaths together and say they are [extrajudicial killings.])

"Bakit, kung nandiyan yung lumalaban... hintayin mo pa na i-hearing muna natin dito, i-trial muna natin dito bago ko ito barilin? Nakatutok na yung baril sayo ng drug pusher, maghanap ka pa ng due process... you have to defend yourself," said Dela Rosa.

(Translation: If you're in a fight... will you wait for a hearing or trial before you shoot someone? The drug pusher is pointing a gun at you, and you look for due process... you have to defend yourself.)

 

The PNP will now turn its attention to solving riding-in-tandem killings and terrorist threats.

Related: PNP to target riding-in-tandem, war on terror