PDEA-7 says it is ready to take on the drug war
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has formally ordered the termination of Oplan Tokhang after Malacañang transferred all the anti-drugs operations to the jurisdiction of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“Implementation of Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang are suspended immediately,” PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said Thursday.
The Oplan Double Barrel or Tokhang is the PNP’s controversial campaign against illegal drugs, which led to thousands of deaths of suspected drug users and peddlers.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered PDEA to become the sole agency tasked to carry out the war on drugs after an independent survey showed declines in his satisfaction and trust ratings because of the bloody campaign.
The PNP immediately said after the President’s directive that it will now focus on anti-criminality operations, mostly on riding-in-tandem shooters, as well as internal security operations, and anti-terrorism.
Its contribution to the drug war will now be limited to forwarding of intelligence information to PDEA, the PNP official said.
As a result of the deactivation of Oplan Tokhang, both the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) and Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) stopped the conduct of anti-drug operations yesterday.
Senior Insp. Llewelyn Reyes, CCPO information officer, said they have yet to receive the guidelines on the President’s memorandum but they already deactivated their Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU).
“Naka-receive kami ng text pero wala pa yung formal guidelines. So ngayon focus na kami sa other crimes (We received a text about the order.
However, we have not formally received yet the guidelines. So we are focusing now on other crimes),” Reyes said.
But Reyes said the CCPO will still continue to implement Oplan Pokemon in the city, which will now focus on illegal gambling.
Supt. Ryan Manongdo, deputy provincial director for operations (DPDO) of the CPPO, said they also stopped their drug operations yesterday but will instead focus on conducting random checkpoints, which is also one way to deter illegal drug activities.
PRO-7 director Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino, meanwhile, assured the police are not totally out of the picture since they can help in the intelligence gathering and assist PDEA in their anti-drug operations.
The police can apprehend or arrest anybody who is caught in the act in possession of illegal drugs or paraphernalia, he added.
Even with limited manpower and resources, the PDEA in Central Visayas said it is ready to take on the drug war.
“PDEA-7 accepts the challenge and the responsibility given to us by the President,” said the agency’s regional officer in charge, lawyer Ana Lynn Hernandez-Nob.
Nob stressed that even if they lack resources and manpower, it does not mean that they cannot perform well in their campaign against illegal drugs.
“We are overwhelmed (by the directive). But we will not back down to our responsibility,” Nob said.
Nob believed they could take on the responsibility since this was not the first time that PDEA took a lead in the war against drugs. Last January, the President also stripped the police and other law enforcement agencies of their function to conduct anti-drug operations in the heels of alleged drug war–related police abuses.
PDEA-7 has only less than a hundred personnel, not close to the less than a thousand as earlier reported.
According to Nob, PDEA-7 has only about 50 drug enforcement officers and about 50 administration personnel, including contractual employees.
“I think our strength, more or less, is a strength of one police station,” Nob said.
Since Central Visayas is composed of four provinces — Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Oriental — Nob said they need more personnel.
“We need more to address the enormous problem of illegal drugs (in Central Visayas),” she added.
Nob likewise stressed PDEA-7 could not do the job alone and would need the help of other law enforcement agencies, especially the Inter-agency Committee for Anti-Drug (ICAD).
“We will ask the help of other government agencies specially those members of ICAD. Of course we will also seek the assistance of local government units (LGUs) and our community,” said Nob.
The ICAD members include the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of National Defense, among others.
However, Cebu City officials, including Mayor Tomas Osmeña, expressed reservations over handing the anti-drug war solely to PDEA.
“There are a lot of good men in PDEA, but pila ra man na sila kabuok (there are just a few of them),” Osmeña said in a press briefing on Thursday.
The mayor also noted that the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) under Supt. Joel Doria has done a satisfactory job in its campaign against illegal drugs in the city.
City Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia said he was worried that drug peddling and drug-related crime in the city would dramatically increase. “We do not mean to undermine PDEA because that is actually their mandate, but we know very well that this agency is very much undermanned compared to the police force,” Garcia said.
“Undermanned na man gani na ang PNP with one policeman covering for 2000 inhabitants, how much more ang PDEA?” Garcia added.
According to Garcia, the risk that drug personalities will be back in business becomes higher knowing that PDEA has very few personnel to monitor them.
For Councilor Joel Garganera, the President’s decision was only meant to give the PNP a “breathing space,” so it could reassess how it had been handling the drug war and correct what went wrong.
“Probably, he (Duterte) did this because of the many violations and incidents of abuse that has been associated to the police in this campaign. I think this is just a breathing space for them to reflect and correct their ways in implementing this drug war,” said Garganera.
City Councilor Pastor Alcover Jr., on the other hand, said the war on drugs has been defective from the beginning.
“Imagine him telling the policemen that they can kill and he will defend them, abusive policemen now have more power. It is defective since from the start and now, it has conceived bigger problems,” said Alcover, referring to the cases of alleged extrajudicial killings.
Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office (CPADAO) chief Carmen Remedios “Ivy” Durano-Meca also raised concern that PDEA would not be able to adequately wage a war against illegal drugs in the province, such as what happened when it was first tasked to handle the drug war last January.
Meca attributed this to the “insufficient” number of personnel in PDEA needed to cover the entire Central Visayas Region.
“This is the second time for such order, and based on the experience in the first one, in terms of provincial level, it was not successful. We received complaints and concerns from LGUs in the grassroots level, and said PDEA’s presence cannot be felt. PDEA’s manpower is very limited in terms of operation,” she said.
Meca also stressed the need for collaboration in getting rid of the illegal drug menace in the province, and that the police should have a share in the responsibility of implementing anti-illegal drugs operations.
“As what I’ve said earlier, the problem on illegal drugs is a shared responsibility. CPADAO cannot even do it by itself. It needed the help of other law enforcement agencies like the police. It is better to have the PNP (Philippine National Police) because they are stationed in every LGU, and their visibility is more prominent. Giving the task only to PDEA would really make a big difference,” she said.
Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing, on the other hand, said the President has his reasons in entrusting the drug war to the PDEA even as he believed that the police are in a better position to fight illegal drugs.
“We defer the wisdom of the President, but may I say that in Mandaue City, the PNP and MCPO (Mandaue City Police Office) have been really one of the main reasons why the drug trade has been minimized, has been positively affected,”’ he said.
Quisumbing said he was also “proud of the job that MCPO has done in the fight against drugs and we know that they will continue to serve the community in terms of the fight against criminality.”
He added he was confident the city government and MCPO would still be able to effectively deal with illegal drugs since PDEA has said it would continue to work with the police.
The community rehabilitation programs for the surrenderers and assessment of livelihood are still intact and police will continue to conduct their anti-drug awareness campaign, he noted. /WITH CORRESPONDENTS ROSALIE O. ABATAYO, MOREXETTE MARIE B. ERRAM AND NORMAL V. MENDOZA