EARLY last year, I asked the driver of a cab I hired to take me from Radisson Hotel to Fuente Osmeña who he would vote for president in the May elections. “Grace Poe,” he replied. “But if she’s disqualified, I will vote for Mar Roxas.”

He must have seen the quizzical look on my face because he quickly added, “I wanted to vote for Duterte but I’m worried about his promised campaign against drugs.” You into drugs, I asked. “No,” he said, “it’s not that. But the police will be very powerful under a Duterte presidency and they will abuse their power.”

“My wife is young and, modesty aside, she’s good-looking. What if a policeman took a fancy on her and tagged me a drug pusher in order to get rid of me?”

My father was a policeman so I was taken aback, hurt even, by his lack of trust in the men in uniform. But looking back now, I have to grudgingly admit that he made sense. No, not in the way that he described his fears because I still have to come across a case of a husband falling victim to Operation “Tokhang” because a policeman coveted his wife. But some policemen have indeed abused the carte blanche the president gave them in the war on drugs.

That power was has been put on hold. The president said he would clean the ranks of the Philippine National Police (PNP) first because there here have lately been too many complaints about shenanigans committed by rogue cops for comfort.

Any organization or profession has its share of bad eggs, even the clergy, as the president is wont to point out, but they constitute a minority. The trouble is that numbers do not seem to matter in judging reputation. Just one bad report involving a member and the entire organization is tainted.

It is very unfortunate that the PNP’s participation in the drugs campaign had to be shelved. The PDEA, upon whose shoulders now rest the burden of implementing the president’s scorched earth policy against drug lords, middlemen and pushers, just doesn’t have the warm bodies to mount a sustained war.

What is more worrisome is that unlike in the fight against drugs, there is no timeline in the campaign to rid the PNP of scalawags. While it is true that Duterte has not delivered on his self-imposed deadline of three to six months, you cannot ignore the progress he has made in neutralizing the merchants of death.

I have my own misgivings on the methods employed by the police in the drive. The staggering number of deaths that marked the war cannot but shock the conscience. But the alleged extrajudicial killings aside, we have a sensible and badly-needed program.

The drug problem is like cancer. If a surgery on a cancer patient does not succeed in removing all the malignant cells, they’re likely to spread even faster and hasten the patient’s demise.

We can’t afford a letup in the war against drugs. We need all hands, including the police. Can we not wash those hands and use them at the same time?