New PNP chief seeks review of drug war

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 2)— The new chief of the Philippine National Police on Wednesday said he will launch an evaluation of the strategy of the administration’s controversial flagship anti-drug campaign.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, newly-promoted Police General Camilo Cascolan said improving the protocols for the government’s war on drugs will be among the priorities during his expected two-month tenure as the next police chief.

Cascolan added he is likewise eyeing the creation of a technical working group that would be able to identify lapses and revamp President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war program, which has drawn flak from human rights advocates and organizations here and abroad.

“The strategy on the war on drugs was (formulated) last 2016. This needs to be evaluated now,” Cascolan said in an interview with The Source.

“The main problem of our society today is drugs. I wish that I would be able to evaluate it properly, come up with a contingency plan, and come up with a new phase of the anti-drug war,” he added.

For instance, Cascolan said, that the campaign should shift its focus on high-value drug targets— or individuals who breed the country's drug problem. He stressed the need to develop “networks” to be able to analyze those supposedly involved in the illegal drug trade.

Cascolan also raised the need for more trained drug enforcement units to help in the administration’s initiative.

Cascolan held the second highest position in the police force as Deputy Chief for Administration. He took over as PNP chief during a change of command Wednesday afternoon.

Aside from proposed improvements in the anti-drug campaign, Cascolan also detailed his other orders of business as next PNP chief: internal cleansing of the ranks, as well as boosting the morale and discipline and protecting the welfare of his personnel.

Government data shows over 6,000 people— including suspected drug users and dealers— have been killed in anti-illegal drug operations since Duterte took office in July 2016. Local and international rights groups, however, say thousands more have died in extrajudicial killings, a claim the government has repeatedly denied.

READ: Philippines' 'heavy-handed' approach on drug war, security threats led to human rights violations – UN report

Meanwhile, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Wilkins Villanueva said the agency is maintaining its three-pronged approach to the drug war, namely, supply reduction, demand reduction, and harm reduction.

Wilkins said PDEA is coordinating with the Bureau of Customs to ramp up efforts against drug smuggling.

“We are now working with the Bureau of Customs on a bigger target. Maybe on the next couple of months ay mahi-hit namin ito (we will be able to hit it),” he said.

No plans to reshuffle PNP

Cascolan meanwhile said he has no plans or intention to conduct major reshuffling within the police force.

“There will be no revamp except for those who may be retiring soon— there will be a lot of officers who will be retiring,” the police official explained.

Cascolan only has two months to lead the PNP since he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on November 10, unless the President extends his term. He explained that his appointment is lawful under Republic Act 8551, which allows the country's top police officer to be promoted to a higher rank or given another position even with less than a year before retirement.

Cascolan is a member of the Philippine Military Academy's "Sinagtala" Class of 1986 – similar to his predecessors Gamboa, Oscar Albayalde, and Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, who is now a senator.