PHILIPPINE Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino assured Thursday that the government's drug war will be less bloody.
In a memorandum dated October 10, President Rodrigo Duterte assigned the PDEA as the "sole agency" in charge of the anti-illegal drugs operations.
Aquino said he instructed his men to abide by the law as they conduct anti-illegal drugs operations.
He even invited the media to join them in all their operations.
"I'm asking all the media to join me in all my operations, you're all welcome and lahat ng operations ko isama natin ang media, may body cams kami and everything," Aquino said.
Aquino, who took office in September after his retirement from the Philippine National Police (PNP), said that since July 1, 2016, only 28 drug personalities were killed by PDEA operatives during operations.
"Sila po yung nakalaban namin and I can assure the public that this 28 are legitimate operations [They were the ones who the PDEA had firefight with and I can assure the public that this 28 are legitimate operations]," he said.
However, Aquino said they will still need the assistance of the PNP in implementing the government's war on drugs noting that the agency only has at least a thousand operatives.
He said the PDEA will lead the operations but members of other law enforcement agencies will be included.
Aquino said considering their limited manpower, the PDEA will focus on "high impact operations" which includes identification and dismantling of shabu laboratories, chemical storage places, marijuana plantations, drug dens, and shabu tiangges.
"Alam ko mahihirapan kami, there will be a lot of obstacles and challenges along the way but I can assure the public na kakayanin namin itong trabaho na 'to, napakahirap dahil nga considering ang aming manpower ay dalawang libo lang kami and this is the number of personnel already operating in the region," Aquino said.
[I know it will be hard for us. There will be a lot of obstacles and challenges along the way but I can assure the public that we can do this job. It's a challenge considering our manpower which is around 2,000 that already includes those operating in the regions.]
In an event in Malacañang on Thursday, Duterte said he hoped his critics were now "satisfied" after he heeded their appeal to address the rising death toll of suspected drug offenders in the country.
The President said the public can now expect a "better" situation in addressing the drug menace in the country since he delegated the PDEA as the "sole agency" in charge of the anti-narcotics war.
"Let's see. It would just be the Pdea which has to [operate the drug war]. And I will again reiterate, do not interfere, just let the Pdea do it alone and let us see [what will happen]," Duterte said.
"In PDEA, only a few died [in the drug war]. So there will only be a few casualties in the other party [drug personalities]… 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," he added.
PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon meanwhile said that although they are bound to follow the rule of law, PDEA operatives can lawfully take action to defend themselves if the situation calls for it.
He said that as much as possible they will try to avoid armed confrontation with the suspects.
"But if and when the situation calls for it, our agents, just like our counterparts from the police, and other law enforcement agencies, kailangan po naming ipagtanggol ang aming mga sarili, ang aming mga kasamahan at lalong lalo na po yung mga tao na nasa paligid namin habang kami'y nagsasagawa ng operations," he added.
[But if and when the situation calls for it, our agents, just like our counterparts from the police, and other law enforcement agencies, we need to defend ourselves, our men and the people around us while we are conducting operations.] (SunStar Philippines)