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New police unit to take over Duterte’s anti-drug war

Police chief makes big changes in Philippines, after allegations of abuse of power and death of Korean businessman

Gulf News

Manila: Philippine police have resumed anti-drug operations, which had been halted for a month amid allegations of abuse of power and the death of a foreign national in police custody.

According to Director-General Ronald Dela Rosa, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is raring to get back into the fight after a series of organisational changes and the creation of a new department that would take over the job of the now defunct PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG).

“The war on drugs is on, and this time it is going to be more extensive, aggressive and well-coordinated, with built-in systems that guarantee full accountability and instill internal discipline among all personnel,” Dela Rosa said on Monday.

The government’s war on drugs was stopped last February by President Rodrigo Duterte after a South Korean businessman, Jee Ick-joo, was abducted and killed, reportedly by a group of officers from the police’s AIDG unit.

Jee was killed despite his wife paying millions of pesos as ransom to his abductors.

After the suspension of the anti-drug drive, many drug dealers returned to the streets, Dela Ros said.

“According to our assessment of the drug situation, as validated by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s own estimates, there has been a hike in drug activities during the period when we suspended our anti-drug operations, particularly against street and middle level drug traffickers, and high-value targets.” the senior police official said.

“We continue to receive reports of the resurgence of drug activities even in some areas that had been previously ‘cleared’ It only goes to show that we cannot afford to lower our guard when confronting a vicious enemy. There must be continuity of effort if the desire is to completely eradicate the problem,” he added.

“But after careful evaluation of the prevailing drug situation in the different regions since the suspension of all police anti-drug operations, Dela Rosa approved the recommendation of the Director for Operations, Police Director Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, to reorganise the AIDG into the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (DEG), a national operational support unit with the mission and function to be the lead unit in police anti-drug operations,” Dela Rosa said.

He said, in order to prevent corrupt individuals from entering the force, the PNP will institute a rigid screening process for candidates joining the organisation in addition to a complete background investigation to select only the best and most qualified to man the new unit.

“Only personnel of unsullied service reputation, unblemished record, and a character beyond suspicion will be accepted into the force,” Dela Rosa said.

“We cannot turn our back in this fight because the future of succeeding generations depends on how well we fight the war on drugs today” the PNP chief added.

According to the nation’s top police official, aside from authorised PNP personnel and village officials, all anti-drug operations would be coordinated with the local church to serve as a representative on behalf of the religious sector.

The PNP, under Duterte, mounted a campaign to neutralise the drugs scourge last July 2016 when he assumed the post as the country’s 16th President.

The new leader has said substance abuse is an issue that strikes a chord in a large sector of the Philippine society as families confront having loved ones who are hooked on drugs.

He proposed going after the source of the illegal substances — the pushers — as a solution to the problem.

Over the course of several months, various sources have said thousands of drug dealers and suspected pushers have been killed.

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