October 23, 2017, 3:50 pm
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PNP disbands drug units, stops ops

PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa yesterday disbanded all Drug Enforcement Units and ordered police personnel to stop operations under the controversial Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang, which critics say has led to extrajudicial killings.

Director Camilo Cascolan, PNP Directorate for Operations chief, said personnel assigned with the DEUs will be converted to detectives and police intelligence operatives “responsible for detection, prevention and solution of street crimes.”

Dela Rosa issued the order a day after President Duterte signed an order designating the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the lead agency in the administration’s war against drugs.

Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang are the PNP’s flagship programs to stop illegal drugs in the country but cops involved in the operations have been accused of   killing suspected drug users or pushers even if they have already surrendered.

Latest figures from #RealNumbersPH showed there were 3,906 individuals killed in 76,863 anti-illegal drugs operations nationwide from July 1, 2016 up to September 26, 2017.  The same operations also led to the arrest of 113,932.

Dela Rosa, however, said the PNP Drug Enforcement Group will still function as the PNP’s anti-illegal drugs arm but only to gather intelligence information regarding illegal drugs.

“If there is good intelligence information, they will pass them to PDEA,” he said.

The PDEG was activated last March after the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force was dissolved over the involvement of several cops in the kidnapping and killing of Korean trader Jee Ick-joo in October last year.

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said they will ask the help of the PNP in their operations but assured that they will be the lead operating unit.

He said PDEA will operate against high-value targets, especially those who are included in Duterte’s narcolist and those involved in street level pushing.

“We will take the lead in all of these – high-level drug pushing, mid-level, and street level.  This is a big challenge for PDEA, but we will live to it,” Aquino said.

Dela Rosa said he’s frustrated that the PNP can’t sustain the gains it has achieved in the fight against illegal drugs but stressed he doesn’t harbor ill feelings toward Duterte.

He said they have to be optimistic the PDEA can do the job even if the agency has limited manpower.

“The vacuum the PNP will leave in the drug war will serve as a challenge to the community, local government units, the stakeholders. They must be encouraged to do their share,” Dela Rosa said.

Duterte’s order that sidelines the police and leaves the PDEA as the sole agency for the drugs war could impact the intensity of the crackdown.

PDEA spokesman Derreck Carreon said the agency has about 2,000 personnel and funds for only 200 new agents next year. Its proposed budget allocation for 2018 is P2.6 billion compared to P131.2 billion for the PNP, which has 175,000 men.

Nonetheless, PDEA will be up to the task. “We are ready, we can do it,” Carreon said.

“We will target the source, the so-called big fish. Removing these high-value targets will also eliminate the street level distribution and disrupt the entire network.”

Carreon said he could not guarantee there would be less bloodshed.

“We follow the procedures, we don’t want an encounter but we also have to protect ourselves if drug suspects resist and fight back,” he said. – With JP Lopez and Reuters
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