No less than the father of Bohol’s relentless war on drugs, which was launched long before then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte became Philippine president, has expressed apprehensions over the battle’s new direction now that the police have been placed on the sidelines and the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) in the frontline.
Senior Supt. Dennis Palo Agustin, former PNP Bohol director and now Deputy Regional Director for Operations for Police Regional Office (PRO-7) based in Camp Osmeña, Cebu City, yesterday told The Bohol Tribune that the shift of role in the war on drugs will be an uphill struggle for PDEA.
“PDEA will have a hard time because of lack of resources,” said Agustin in a text message to The Bohol Tribune.
Between 2013 to 2016, under the instruction by Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, thousands of drug pushers and users were either arrested or killed during the incumbency of Agustin as Bohol police director.
Bohol Police Director Senior Supt. Felipe Rivera Natividad, for his part, said they have to abide by the President’s new directive – and “next is how to sustain what we (have) started against our anti-drug campaign in accordance with the directive.”
“I know it will not be easy but with concerted effort as ONE BOHOL we can make it possible,” Natividad told The Bohol Tribune yesterday.
Earlier, Pres. Duterte directed the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Customs (BOC) and all other agencies or ad hoc anti-drug task force to stop conducting anti-illegal drug operations.
According to a memorandum signed by the President on Tuesday, PDEA will henceforth be the sole agency that can conduct anti-illegal drug operations pursuant to RA No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Duterte issued the directive “in order to bring order to the operation/campaign against illegal drugs, thus pinpointing precise accountability.”
However, the new directive does not appear workable to some police officers in Bohol and Central Visayas.
In a text message to The Bohol Tribune, Police Supt. Nicomedes Olaivar, former Tagbilaran City PNP chief and former head of Bohol SWAT, said the police have accomplished a lot in the war against illegal drugs despite the perceived lapses in other parts of the country.
Olaivar, now the commander of the Provincial Public Safety Company of Lanao del Norte, believes the drug problem will only worsen if the PNP is not in the lead role.
If the lapses should be corrected, Olaivar said, it should be done on a case-to-case basis, not on a countrywide implementation of a new order.
“Sayang ang nasogdan na nga companya laban sa druga..kung asa unta ang provincia nga naka violate sa human rights mao unta imbestigahan. Unya obserbahan ang panahon kung effective ba..dili totally whole countrywide ang e suspended,” Olaivar told The Bohol Tribune.
Olaivar added: “Most PNP officials are doing the right thing to finish the drug problem, but sad to note kung ang mga tawo nga inocente ma-biktima sa druga /tuloy ang ligaya/ mag fireworks mga sindikato/dili kaya sa PDEA.”
Chief Inspector Roland Desiree Lavisto, Ubay police station chief, reechoed Olaivar’s sentiments, saying “diri sa Bohol murag duha ra sila (PDEA personnel), dili na makaya.”
In a chance interview on Friday, Senior Inspector Gerald Luna, Dauis police chief, said it would be difficult for PDEA to sustain the drug war.
Luna, citing the situation in Guindulman and Candijay towns, said that the drug infestation in these two towns had dramatically been minimized due to the PNP’s leadership in the campaign, which got a boost from the Duterte administration.
“Mamalik na sab tong mga mamaligyaay ug shabu nga niundang na unta. Dugay ra ang usa ka buwan,” Luna warned.
Senior Supt. Jonathan Cabal, intelligence division chief at PRO-7, in a text message to The Bohol Tribune said the war on drugs can still be won by the PDEA if their personnel and resources are augmented.
“For them (PDEA) to succeed, they would need to beef up their personnel strength, to somehow address the humongous problem at hand,” Cabal said.
Cabal said the war on drugs should not be left with PDEA and the PNP alone, but the family should be at the forefront of eliminating the drug problem.
“Be that as it may, the society itself, spearheaded by the family, should be at the forefront on this war on drugs. We can’t simply let the government alone take care of the problem,” Cabal said.
He stressed: “If the family is strengthened, then the community has a better chance of fighting this menace.” Then Cabal added: “Immunizing the community, let alone the individual, takes a whole of society’s approach to really succeed.”
Under Article IX, Section 84 of RA No. 9165, PDEA is mandated, among others, to:
(a) Implement or cause the efficient and effective implementation of the national drug control strategy formulated by the Board (Dangerous Drugs Board) thereby carrying out a national drug campaign program which shall include drug law enforcement, control, and prevention campaign with the assistance of concerned government agencies;
(b) Undertake the enforcement of the provisions of Article II of this Act relative to the unlawful acts and penalties involving any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical and investigate all violators and other matters involved in the commission of any crime relative to the use, abuse or trafficking of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical as provided for in this Act and the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1619;
(c) Arrest and apprehend as well as search all violators and seize or confiscate, the effects or proceeds of the crimes as provided by law and take custody thereof, for this purpose the prosecutors and enforcement agents are authorized to possess firearms, in accordance with existing laws;
(d) Monitor and if warranted by circumstances, in coordination with the Philippine Postal Office and the Bureau of Customs, inspect all air cargo packages, parcels and mails in the central post office, which appear from the package and address itself to be a possible importation of dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals, through online or cyber shops via the internet or cyberspace.
RA No. 1965 further states that: “Nothing in this Act shall mean a diminution of the investigative powers of the NBI and the PNP on all other crimes as provided for in their respective organic laws:
Provided, however, That when the investigation being conducted by the NBI, PNP or any ad hoc anti-drug task force is found to be a violation of any of the provisions of this Act, the PDEA shall be the lead agency.
The NBI, PNP or any of the task force shall immediately transfer the same to the PDEA:
Provided, further, That the NBI, PNP and the Bureau of Customs shall maintain close coordination with the PDEA on all drug-related matters.”
Duterte’s directive was issued following allegations of human rights abuses committed by the PNP in the war against drugs.
This will also be the second time that President Duterte ordered the PNP to stop all anti-drug operations nationwide.
On January 30, 2017, Duterte instructed the PNP to dismantle all its anti-illegal drug units and “cleanse its ranks” of corrupt personnel following the kidnap and murder of a South Korean businessman inside Camp Crame.
On February 27, the President allowed the PNP a limited participation in the anti-drug campaign through smaller task forces.
On March 6, the PNP officially relaunched its campaign against drugs dubbed Oplan Double Barrel Alpha Reloaded. (MIKE LIGALIG with a report from PNA)