PNP, NBI welcome PDEA lead in drug war

International parliamentarians display their message during a news conference in Manila Philippines. – AP

Duterte also ordered the PNP to maintain its visibility at all times, as a "deterrent to illegal drug activities" leaving to the PDEA.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte fumed on Thursday over what he called "interference" by Western countries particularly in his administration's war on drugs, threatening to expel diplomats of European Union countries "within 24 hours".

Duterte cited Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which stated that PDEA should be the lead agency when inquiries of the NBI, PNP, and others are found to be in violation of any of the provisions of this act.

The memorandum directed the NBI, PNP, AFP, BOC, Philippine Postal Office and all other agencies as well as all ad hoc anti-drug task forces to immediately relay, deliver and bring to the attention of the PDEA all information they received for its appropriate action.

Carlos said the PNP's Drug Enforcement Group, a national operational support unit with the mission and function to be the lead unit in police anti-drug operations, remains.

Duterte first broached the idea to put PDEA in charge of the anti-drug campaign in January when he announced that he meant to create a "narcotics command" to weed out rogue policemen involved in the drug trade.

The drug war was criticized by the administration and opposition lawmakers, the United Nations, and local and global human rights groups for alleged extrajudicial killings supposedly committed by police officers. But the police drug war operations have killed dozens more suspects, including minors.

Police say armed suspects resisted arrest in every one of those cases and deny allegations victims were executed.

The Palace on Thursday claimed success because the street distribution of illegal drugs has already been degraded.

Some senators on Thursday said they would still scrutinize the crackdown, regardless of who leads it.

This developed as the PNP hierarchy ordered the suspension of all Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang operations and the immediate dissolution of all drug enforcement units from the regional offices down to the police stations. "If the crime is being committed in our presence and we have personal knowledge that a crime is being committed or is about to be committed we will effect the arrest", Madrid said.

While Duterte's war on drugs had substantial public support, it came under fire from local and worldwide human rights groups, who denounced the killing of more than 7,000 suspects, mostly poor drug users and pushers.

"Yes, during my interview a while ago 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 when asked if the drug war would be less bloody under PDEA.

As PDEA agents vowed to adhere to the rule of law, they stressed that they would not chicken out from using force to defend themselves when conducting illegal drug operations.

She noted that the authorities must focus on crimes associated with big drug operations, such as money laundering and extortion.

During a hearing on the DILG budget for 2018, Hontiveros asked department officials how they could ensure that innocent names would not be put in the PNP drop boxes.

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