PNP: Drug personalities 'became bolder' under PDEA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) — Drug personalities "got bolder" with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) heading the anti-illegal drugs campaign, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, ang na-mention ni chief PNP ay yoon pong may mga bumalik sa komunidad na dati nang kilalang drug personalities, naging bolder...kasi hindi kami puwedeng magsagawa ng anti-drug operations," PNP spokesperson Dionardo Carlos told CNN Philippines' The Source.

(Translation: Unfortunately, as the PNP chief mentioned, some known drug personalities who returned to their communities got bolder... because we were not allowed to conduct anti-drug operations.)


President Rodrigo Duterte put PDEA at the helm of the drug war in October after increasing public distrust in police. However, he is considering letting the PNP take over the campaign once again.

The agency was first tasked to lead the drug war in January, following the death of a South Korean businessman allegedly at the hands of rogue cops. In March, the PNP again took over, creating a new unit, the PNP Drug Enforcement Group.

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

Carlos said they are willing to take on the responsibility, this time with more stringent measures against abusive police.

He noted the agency had been allotted a budget for body cameras in 2018.

"Ang utos ni Chief PNP, lahat ng pagiging opertiba, kailangan ng body cameras (At the PNP Chief's directive, those out in operations need body cameras)," said Carlos.

He said some local government units even donated cameras.

"Ginagamit na po ng iba nating police (Some of our police use them already)," he added.

He also said the police force would continue its internal cleansing and work more closely with other sectors.

The PNP has been rocked by allegations of abuse since the beginning of Duterte's controversial drug war. Since its launch in July 2016, about 4,000 have died in police operations according to government figures. However, human rights watchdogs list as many as 13,000 deaths, including those from vigilante-style killings.

Despite the turnover of the drug war to PDEA, a Reuters investigative report revealed CCTV footage of a police operation that killed three drug-affiliated suspects.

While police claimed self-defense, witnesses called the operation an execution. The video also showed a different account from what was reported by police officers.

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

PNP Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa dismissed the report as an attempt to stop the return of the police to the drug war.

Carlos said the agency is open to reports of erring policemen.

He added they would continue reforming drug suspects who have surrendered, now at 1.4 million since July 2016.

"Gagawin po namin yoon pong makakatulong para maprotektahan yung taumbayan, makapagbago po yung drug personalities, at yung lumalabag sa batas ay maarestong buhay," he said.

(Translation: We will do this to help protecting the people, changing drug personalities, and arresting criminals alive.)