MANILA (Updated) -- Malacañang denied Friday the allegations that President Rodrigo Duterte pulled the Philippine National Police (PNP) from drugs war to make a "graceful cover-up" for its lapses in addressing the drug menace.
"That's presumptive to think that it's a graceful cover-up. It's simply a response to a situation. If it were a business, it’s a corporate decision," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press conference.
Duterte signed a memorandum on October 10, stripping the PNP of its role in the government's brutal campaign against illegal drugs and instructing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to solely act on the stamping out the rampant narcotics trade.
The President's directive came at the height of controversies hounding the police force because of questionable deaths of suspected drug offenders, including some teenagers, in their simultaneous drug raids.
In a speech delivered Thursday, Duterte seemed to merely have been compelled to stop the PNP's anti-drug operations to please the "bleeding hearts and media."
Duterte, at the relaunching of Malacañang’s Press Briefing Room, said he hoped he "satisfied" his critics in his decision to designate PDEA as the "sole agency" to address the worsening drug situation in the country.
"This is better or better-er, do you say? Here, there will be no casualty, no encounter. Better for the bleeding hearts and media. I hope I satisfy you," the President said.
"All you want is here. When something not your liking is happening, do not look at me. Praise the bleeding hearts and all because I did everything I can do. This is it. And some of the noted writers say, ‘Act now.' That's what I did," he added.
In January, Duterte suspended the PNP’s drug war following the police officers' alleged involvement in the abduction-slay of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo.
The PNP's operations against illegal drugs, however, resumed in March, with a reminder from the President to observe proper protocols in arresting drug personalities.
Abella said Duterte's latest order was meant to make the Filipino people "more comfortable" as the administration's crackdown on narcotics remain relentless.
"He (Duterte) listens to people and he’s just saying, ‘Okay, if this is the way to go that you will feel more comfortable to go this way, then let's go that path," he said.
"He gave the directive in order to accommodate, apparently to accommodate those who think that the campaign against drugs should be conducted otherwise… If the perception is that Pdea would be more acceptable in doing the campaign, waging the campaign, then let’s see how it goes. That was the tenor of the President’s statement,” he added.
At the opening ceremonies of Buglasan 2017 in Negros Oriental on Friday, the President expressed apprehension that his directive might be confronted with "grave consequences."
Duterte, however, said he was left with no choice because his critics "appreciated" more a low-keyed approach on the exacerbating drug problem in the country.
"The drug menace would be handled alone by PDEA. I said, I will not make it public but it is fraught with so many dangers. But if it works, then okay. But if it fell short to the expectation, [I don't know to happen]," he said as he shrugged off over the possible outcomes of his order.
"If the PDEA can handle it, well, that's what you want. But that is fraught with so many grave consequences but it's being appreciated by the priests, human rights [advocates]," the Chief Executive added.
In an interview aired over state-run PTV on Friday night, Duterte admitted that he was forced to issue the order following the criticisms against the government's brutal crackdown on illegal drugs.
"All throughout the country, it would just be the PDEA. Let's see [what will happen]," the President said.
"Do you know why? Because you are blaming the government… To the policemen, do not meddle. If there's someone being chased because of drugs, just leave. Don't interfere. If someone dies, the priest can go after PDEA. The reporters can go after PDEA. Just ask them," he added.
Duterte also admitted that the surveys about his drug war influenced him to stop the PNP from helping the PDEA in arresting drug personalities.
A June 23 to 26 poll conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) found that 54 percent of Filipinos are not buying the cops' claim that slain drug suspects offered resistance during arrest.
The SWS survey also showed that 49 percent believed those killed by the responding police officers "were not really drug pushers" while 50 percent agreed that "false accusations" of drug involvement believed to be the cause of police killings.
Duterte said he would distance himself from the PDEA's anti-narcotics operations since many have expressed disappointment on the way he deals with the drug problem.
"Now, those who are respondents in the surveys, you were one who [pushed me to issue the memorandum] because you seemed to be somehow disappointed. Now, I’m leaving it to you," Duterte said.
"If there’s someone who are into business [of cooking shabu], you are now all right. I would no longer interfere. Since you are still alive, you want to continue but you have to contend with Pdea. Me, I will not interfere anymore. Now, I am not washing hands but I’m hands off already," he added. (SunStar Philippines)