PDEA chief: Having PNP back in anti-drug campaign is ‘good news’
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino welcomed on Wednesday President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to return the Philippine National Police (PNP) as the key implementer of the government’s crackdown against illegal drugs.
“We respect and adhere to the decision of the President,” Aquino said in a text message to INQUIRER.net.
Aquino said his wish to have the PNP back in the anti-drug campaign was a “good news” to the PDEA with the agency’s limited funds, equipment, and manpower.
“But having the PNP and other law enforcement agencies back is [good] news PDEA. In fact that’s my wish,” he said.
“I’ve said this during my past interviews because we are undermanned, underbudgeted, and underequipped,” he added, maintaining that the fight against illicit narcotics is easier “if everyone join and help.”
Aquino, however, said that a month was not enough to curb illegal drugs, noting that despite of the limited capacity the agency faced, the PDEA was able to conduct more than a thousand of anti-illegal drug operations and confiscated millions-worth of drugs.
“Do you think you can curb illegal drugs in a month? Name me an agency who can do that… but look at our accomplishments. In spite of the limitations, we’ve conducted 1,343 operations in a month with illegal drugs [seized] worth P53 million,” he explained.
Duterte, in a speech before soldiers in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, said he would eventually return to the PNP the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations in the country.
“I have to return that power to the police,” he said.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Dir. Oscar Albayalde backed the chief executive’s order, saying there is “no way” that the PDEA can address “street pushing because of its very small manpower.”
In an earlier interview with INQUIRER.net, Aquino said the PDEA only has 1,100 agents nationwide—or a mere average of 64 agents per region. It also lacks funds and equipment: for 2018, the agency’s proposed operational budget only amounts to P900 million.
Duterte, in October, removed the PNP from the implementation of the deadly anti-drug campaign over criticisms of human rights violations. Data from the PNP show that about 6,140 suspected drug criminals have been killed from July 2016 to September 2017—3,850 of these are slain during drug operations while 2,290 are “deaths under investigation.”
The controversial campaign’s legality has been questioned by human rights lawyers and advocates before the Supreme Court and is the subject of ongoing oral arguments before the high tribunal.
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