Duterte: Police to return to drug war if problem gets worse

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 18) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday said the police will return to his administration’s war against illegal drugs if the problem worsens.

“The drug problem, if it becomes worse again, the police has to enter the picture,” Duterte said during the launch of the Department of Agriculture’s partnership with Ayala Malls in Davao City.

This comes a month after the President ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to take over the drug war from the Philippine National Police amid allegations of abuses and extrajudicial killings, including the death of teenageers Kian Delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz, and Reynaldo De Guzman.

READ: Duterte gives PDEA lead role in drug war

“I want it eradicated if possible...It’s an organized crime,” Duterte said referring to the network of selling illegal drugs, especially the poor man’s drug, known as ‘shabu” or metamphetamine hydrochloride.

A few days after being relieved of the drug war, PNP chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said he would ask Duterte to allow the police to lead the operations again if he thinks the PDEA needs assistance. There were initial concerns that PDEA did not have the manpower to conduct the campaign the way the Philippine National Police did.

READ: Dela Rosa: If drug crimes rise, I'll ask Duterte to return war on drugs to PNP

In his speech, Duterte also explained why the anti-drug operations seem to be targeting only the poor.

“Walang malalaki kasi ang mga malalaki, mayaman, they do not use shabu because they know it would drive their mind to insanity forever. It’s a chemical. Hindi kagaya ng cannabis, heroin, cocaine. It's a poppy. It's organic. It will not really destroy the brain just like that overnight. But itong shabu is a chemical mixed very deadly. It shrinks the brain,” Duterte said.

READ: Duterte reveals why drug ops are prevalent among the poor

Duterte earlier said one of the reasons he turned over the drug war to the PDEA was because the agency has had fewer casualties in their operations.

From July 1, 2016 to November 3, 2017, there have been only 29 deaths in their operations, said PDEA Public Information Office chief Derrick Carreon. Since taking over the drug war, PDEA has conducted 704 anti-drug operations, which led to the arrest of 230 drug personalities, he added.

In contrast, police data showed they held 76,863 drug-related operations from July 1, 2016 to September 26, 2017, resulting in the death of 3,906 drug personalities and the arrest of 113,932. Human rights groups claim tens of thousands have died in alleged extrajudicial killings.