(UPDATED) Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte may have been dissatisfied with the performance of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in waging the war against illegal drugs because he wants the police back in the campaign.
Roque said the President evidently "wants more" in terms of exerting efforts to end the drug problem.
PDEA was tasked on October 10 to exclusively conduct anti-drug operations. The agency said it conducted a total of 1,341 anti-drug operations from October 10 to November 10 this year, resulting in the arrest of 404 drug personalities and the seizure of dangerous drugs worth P53.83 million.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino had said that their anti-drug operations in its first month as lead agency in the drug war increased 80.5 percent for the period while the number of arrests was 14.4 percent higher and the value of drugs seized, a whopping 233.3 percent higher compared to the previous month.
Roque said Duterte's dissatisfaction with PDEA's anti-narcotics operations might be the reason why he is keen to give back to the Philippine National Police (PNP) the lead role in the brutal war on illegal drugs.
"Because the President returned it, he must not be satisfied. He wants more," Roque told a press conference.
"There is now a very strong likelihood that it will be returned to the PNP. As he said, what he said was to prevent the problem from worsening, the drug problem. If he thinks, it must be returned, then, it must be. The PDEA has been given enough time," he added.
Currently, the 2,200-strong PDEA is the only agency tasked to conduct anti-narcotics operations because the police was stripped of its lead role, following criticisms over the involvement of some policemen in the killing of teenagers Kian delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz. Both teens were allegedly on their knees and were pleading for their lives when they were shot dead by Caloocan police in separate operations in August.
The two policemen implicated in the Arnaiz slay case, along with 56 others, face dismissal from the service based on the recommendation of the PNP Internal Affairs Office.
Duterte said on Wednesday, November 22, that he would eventually let the PNP, with 175,000 personnel, go after drug offenders anew, noting that there was a possibility that drug trade would exacerbate.
PDEA director Aaron Aquino said they welcome the President’s decision to bring back the PNP to the war on drugs.
He said they have admitted that they need help in waging the campaign, if they are to solve the drug problem within the six-year rule of Duterte, because they lack personnel and equipment.
Aquino, however, urged the PNP to review their strategies in conducting illegal drugs operations to avoid criticisms and prevent public outburst. (With a report from Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)