By: Jennifer P. Rendon, Louine Hope Conserva and Dolly Yasa
WITH the anti-illegal drugs camping now off their shoulder, the Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 said it will now shift its focus to other anti-criminality efforts.
Chief Superintendent Cesar Hawthorne Binag, PRO-6 director, said police officers will now prioritize seven focus crimes – murder, homicide, theft, robbery, physical injuries, cattle rustling, car and motorcycle theft, and rape.
Binag said they would also concern themselves with anti-insurgency and violent extremism.
The region’s top cop said they were not disheartened amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s order designating the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the “sole agency” in charge of the war on drugs.
“We have a good coordination with the PDEA and the Department of the Interior and Local Government. So, our plans are already in place. And I’m confident that the PDEA could carry out the anti-drug campaign,” Binag said.
He also stressed that they would still support the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.
If the PDEA would request their assistance in anti-drugs operations, Binag said they are more than willing to lend a hand.
Other campaign like rehabilitation of Tokhang surrenderers would continue since it is spearheaded by local government units.
Duterte signed a memorandum on Oct. 10, 2017 ordering the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Bureau of Customs, the Philippine Postal Office and other “ad hoc anti-drug task force” to leave the implementation of the drug war to the PDEA.
Duterte cited Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) as basis of the memorandum.
Part of the order was for all information obtained in the course of the enforcement of the anti-narcotics campaign must be “relayed, delivered, or brought to the attention of the PDEA for its appropriate action.”
On Jan. 30, 2017, the PNP also ordered all police units to stop its anti-illegal drug operations, as they would shift their focus on cleansing their ranks.
But the order was lifted a month later.
Some observers said that several drug personalities regrouped and strengthened their operations when the PNP stopped anti-narcotics operations.
Duterte’s order would again mean an end to Oplan Tokhang.
PRO-6 records showed that from July 1, 2016 to Oct. 11, 2017, a total of 20,915 persons in Western Visayas surrendered under Oplan Tokhang.
The surrenderees included 1,979 in Aklan; 1,737 in Antique; 5,505 in Capiz; 747 in Guimaras; 7,554 in Iloilo; and 3,393 in Iloilo City.
Meanwhile, the Iloilo Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit vowed to continue supporting PDEA in the war on drugs.
“With this development, we will still help and work hand in hand with PDEA through our intelligence gathering,” said Chief Insp. Charlie Sustento, PDEU head and Ajuy police chief.
Sustento said the unit halted all illegal drug operation following the president’s order.
He said they will wait for guidance and instruction from the PNP national headquarters as to their official function in the campaign.
Sustento said he was saddened by the president’s decision considering their successes in the war on drugs.
“We are very saddened because we were able to neutralize high value targets and drug personalities and we still have pending operations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. said the president only wants to give the public the opportunity to assess the illegal drug campaign in the absence of the police.
The PNP’s bloody drug war received public outrage and allegation of abuse of authority.
“Kag nali ang resulta indi maayo para sa kampanya, singganon niya ang bilog nga pungsod nga kinahanglan gid ya ang PNP. Pero kun mag-ok man ang PDEA, ti labing salamat eh,” the governor said.
Defensor refused to comment on PDEA’s capacity to successfully deliver its duty but he said he learned that the agency lacks the personnel to implement the campaign.
In Negros Occidental, Senior Supt. Rodolfo Castil, police provincial director, said they will focus on increased police visibility.
In a statement to The Daily Guardian, Castil said that “the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office supports the campaign of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte against illegal drugs.”
“We, in the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office shall at all times, maintain police visibility, as a deterrent to illegal drug activities.”
Castil said all information and data received by the Philippine National Police shall be relayed, delivered, or brought to PDEA.