Nearly five months into the administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the Philippine National Police has reported that law enforcement agencies have killed 46 drug suspects. But the official count has been met with skepticism and criticism, with the Human Rights Watch saying that the police are “downplaying” and “undercounting” drug war deaths.

Marcos has vowed to continue the campaign against illegal drugs but with an emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation. His predecessor initiated the brutal war on drugs, leaving a death toll on drug suspects by the thousands.

President Marcos’ policy must be a clear signal to the national police leadership that killing drug suspects is not the path that the new administration is taking.

Hence, the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s creation of a program dubbed “Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan” (Secure Life, Shun Drugs) or Bida, which involves local government units, National Government agencies, and other sectors of society that focuses more on reducing the demand on illegal drugs and expanding community-based rehabilitation.

Rehabilitating drug dependents in communities is not new. Despite the previous administration’s anti-narcotics bloodbath, it had instituted programs that showed that its aims were not only for weeding out drug suspects. The community-based rehabilitation was one such program that extended kindness to drug dependents (users or pushers) who either wanted to mend their ways or were scared to get killed.

The DILG’s Bida program must be given the chance to flourish and improve along the way.

As for the current administration’s tally on drug war deaths, police chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin has described it as “very minimal.”

Azurin’s statement seemingly makes him like a cold-blooded character in a crime movie. One death is not just a mere individual’s demise–the pain of the people who lost a loved one in a drug bust is heavier than the law enforcer’s firearm.

It is also convenient for Azurin to issue such a statement because the Marcos administration is still new.

The public must wait for the police’s report on its war on drugs after the Marcos Presidency reaches its first year, and compare it to the number of drug war deaths during the Duterte administration.

If the PNP chief, whoever the official may be, would say that the number is still minimal, the public must not rejoice. If the number is higher, the public must still not rejoice.

No matter what the death toll is, killing a drug suspect is not the solution to the problem.