PNP Chief: Media report on Tondo drug raid an attempt to stop police's return to drug war

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 29) — Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said the release of a "damaging" media report on an anti-drug operation in which three suspects were killed was an attempt to prevent the police from retaking the lead in the drug war.

Dela Rosa also believed that the report by media company Reuters may have been timed to coincide with the PNP's possible return to the anti-drug campaign.

"Tina-timing tsaka lumalabas 'yung mga ganu'n na damaging reports sa PNP kung kailan tayo babalik. Ibig sabihin, 'yung mga kalaban natin ayaw talaga tayo pabalikin," Dela Rosa told reporters on Tuesday.

[Translation: They timed when they would release those damaging reports so it would coincide with the PNP's return. This means our enemies don't want us back.]

Drug lords had been "lording" over the Philippines for the past years would not give up their status so easily, Dela Rosa said.

"Di naman tayo ngayon lang pinanganak, ngayon talagang nasaktan sila nung binangga natin ito so ginagamit nila lahat ng kanilang power. They will not give up yung kanilang status," he said.

(Translation: We weren't born yesterday. They were really hurt when we went after them so they're using all their power. They won't give up their status.)

His statements come after Reuters on Tuesday released a controversial report showing security camera footage of an October 11 drug raid in Tondo. The raid occurred a day after Duterte ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to take the lead in the drug war from the PNP, amid allegations of police abuse, human rights violations, and public outrage over the deaths in August of three teenagers allegedly killed by police.

However, the President has recently said he may bring the PNP back into the drug war.

READ: Duterte: PNP will lead anti-drug ops again

The Manila Police District claimed that on October 11 they conducted a buy-bust operation with the suspects and that the suspects had fired at them when they "sensed the presence of a police operative."

But the security footage obtained by Reuters showed that one of the suspects was talking to neighbors and not the police, and footage was seen of police officers turning a CCTV camera away from the crime scene. Its investigative report said a witness told them the three men were executed and not, as the police claim, shot in self-defense.

Manila Police District Superintendent Erwin Margarejo said they will conduct an "in-depth investigation" of the incident.

Related: Police kill three in Tondo raid a day after drug war removed from PNP

Dela Rosa said he had not seen the report, but that it had been timed to coincide with the Supreme Court hearing the oral arguments for and against the war on drugs.

"Ibig sabihin nu'n kung ngayon lang lumabas, they've been preparing… Tini-timing nila kung kailan 'yung oral argument ngayon sa Supreme Court saka nila pinalabas. Para ano pa, diba?" he said.

(Translation: This means if it was released just now, they've been preparing… They timed it when the oral arguments would take place. For what?)

This as two separate lawyer groups -- Center for International Law-Philippines and the Free Legal Assistance Group have filed different petitions questioning the constitutionality of the anti-drug campaign of the PNP.

READ: SC hears oral arguments on gov't war on drugs today

When asked why police were still conducting operations even after the President's October 10 directive turning over the anti-drug campaign to the PDEA, Dela Rosa said information may not have reached all police units yet.

"Basta masasabi ko sa Reuters (All I can say to Reuters is)… If you want the PNP to look bad, you can do it, you can really do it," Dela Rosa said.

"If you want to present a very objective presentation you can do it. Kung gusto mo maging biased in our favor (If you want to be biased in our favor), you can also do it, so may choice sila," he added.

Police data showed they conducted 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.

CNN Philippines' Lara Tan and Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report