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Duterte to call police back to war on drugs

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte. (File Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP)

President Duterte on Tuesday said he would have to call the police back to his war on drugs, as the narcotics menace became resurgent during the campaign’s suspension.

Mr. Duterte said the recall would mean all police would return, but only some. He did not elaborate.

But the chief of the Philippine National Police, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, told reporters that only select police would be deployed to press the war on drugs.

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“We have to make sure all drug enforcement units are already clean. The vetting process will be stricter so that [undesirables] will not be able to get in,” Dela Rosa told reporters.

“All of those involved will have to be selected very carefully. There are many who are capable and are just waiting to be tapped. They should just wait,” he added.

Dela Rosa earlier said many local government officials had complained to him that drug pushers and users had become bolder after the PNP suspended its campaign against drugs.

“The longer we are not in the war on drugs, the more the problem is coming back. The situation is getting worse,” he said.

“It’s like the gains of the last seven months in our war on drugs are going to waste. So, the sooner [the PNP gets back], the better,” he added.

The PNP chief made the comment after Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano urged President Duterte over the weekend to relaunch the drug war.

More than 7,700 people have been killed by police and unknown assailants since Mr. Duterte launched the crackdown after taking office at end-June last year.

Mr. Duterte suspended the war on drugs in January after a series of scandals involving narcotics officers, including the kidnapping for ransom and murder of a Korean businessman.

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The President dismantled the police narcotics force and ordered the filing of charges against the officers involved in the murder of Jee Ick-joo, whose wife the narcs tricked into paying P5 million in ransom after killing him.

With the PNP sidelined, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) took the lead in the fight against drugs.

Mr. Duterte also ordered the military to help the government fight drugs.

On Tuesday, the PDEA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines signed an agreement for cooperation in the crackdown.

Under the agreement, the PDEA will be the lead agency in fighting drugs, with the military providing force in “high-impact operations” that involve the arrest of “high-value targets,” according to Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the military’s public affairs office.

The military will also expand its counterintelligence task force to help the PDEA identify, investigate and dismantle drug gangs, including people in the government and influential groups with links to drugs. —WITH REPORTS FROM CYNTHIA D. BALANA AND THE WIRES

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TAGS: Philippine National Police, Philippine news updates, President Duterte, war on drugs
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