Rody: Drug war fizzling out

The country’s campaign against illegal drugs is backsliding, former President Rodrigo Duterte warned early this week.

Duterte, in an interview in Davao City where he has retired, said the drug menace is “slowly coming back,” thus the need for law enforcement agencies to ramp up their operations against those behind the illicit trade.

He said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. must send a strong signal that his administration will not go soft on the syndicates that either bring in or manufacture drugs locally.

“There’s a need to have a concrete and very strong statement coming from the Executive that he (the President) will protect you when you do right, and he will crush you if you do wrong,” Duterte said partly in Filipino.

The Philippine National Police recorded 6,241 people killed in 233,356 anti-illegal drug operations conducted from 1 July 2016 to 31 March 2022, at the start and close to the end of Duterte’s presidency.

Duterte’s critics, who support an International Criminal Court investigation, claimed that as many as 20,000 people were killed during the drug war.

Two clear options

In past interviews nearing the end of his term, Mr. Duterte clarified that he did not ask state forces to kill drug lords and pushers, but only to shoot back when their lives were under threat.

“You have only two options: right or wrong. You choose,” Duterte said, addressing the police and other anti-drug operatives. “If you do it the wrong way, that would be your downfall; if you do it right, everyone gets to be happy.”

In his recent interview, Duterte said, “I’m not the president anymore, but I’m warning you.”

The PNP today is in a state of flux after its top officers were ordered to hand in their voluntary resignations to pave the way for investigations into their possible involvement in illegal drugs.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos, with the backing of President Marcos, had sought the courtesy resignation of over 900 police generals and colonels so those involved in drugs could be weeded out.

A five-member panel, composed of PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs Undersecretary Isagani Neres, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, and retired justice Melchor Sadang, will recommend to the President which resignations to accept.

PNP data showed that 61 people were killed by law enforcers in the first six months of the Marcos Jr. administration, from 1 July to 31 December 2022.

On the other hand, Dahas, a monitoring project affiliated with the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Third World Studies Center, claimed there were 175 drug-related killings and not 61 during the said period.

Azurin said more than P460 million worth of illegal drugs were seized in 4,600 operations in January 2023 alone, leading to the arrest of 6,248 suspected pushers and users.

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