New PNP chief Marbil would rather not call it a ‘drug war’

New PNP chief Marbil would rather not call it a ‘drug war’

/ 05:52 AM April 03, 2024

PHOTO: Gen. Rommel Marbil STORY: New PNP chief Marbil would rather not call it a ‘drug war’

Gen. Rommel Marbil (Photo by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Gen. Rommel Marbil, the new chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the crackdown on drug syndicates would continue under his leadership, but he did not want it associated with the bloody “war” that marked previous PNP operations against criminal groups and suspected small-time peddlers or users.

Instead, the antidrug campaign “will always go for the rule of law,” Marbil said at a press conference in Camp Crame on Tuesday after presiding over his first command conference as PNP chief.


READ: Reported deaths alarm CHR after drug war revived in Davao City


“I don’t want to say that there is a drug war. It connotes that we are at war again … We will go for a 100-percent drug-free community,” he said.

The antinarcotics campaign launched by former President Rodrigo Duterte, through the PNP’s “Oplan Tokhang,” had led to the deaths of 6,000 people, based on official estimates, with the killings attributed both to police operations and vigilante-style killings. Human rights groups, however, said the number could be much higher.

‘Quota system’

Marbil said the PNP had stopped its “quota system” for confiscated drugs and arrests as a performance indicator of law enforcement accomplishments.

“It’s no longer who has the most number of arrests or confiscations. It’s more of meeting the targets in their area… If this area has more estimated [drug] users [and traders], then they are expected to have more arrests than others,” he said.

“We don’t need to have a contest. That’s an old system,” he added, without saying if this was a practice in the PNP at the height of the antidrug campaign during the Duterte administration from 2016 to 2022.

READ: The politics of drug wars


Asked about the spate of killings in Davao City after its mayor, Sebastian Duterte, son of the former president, declared war on illegal drugs, Marbil said there would be “accountability and transparency” in their operations.

President Marcos, in remarks made during his visit to Germany last month, said his administration’s approach to the illegal drug problem had “changed significantly.” The President said he was “diametrically opposed” to the use of violence in fighting illegal drugs.

Marbil wants limited phone use

Marbil, who was sworn in as the 30th PNP chief to replace retired Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. on Monday, also wanted heightened police visibility.

“I need beat patrols, I want people to feel the presence of our police officers on the ground,” he said.

Marbil said he wanted PNP personnel to focus on their jobs, warning that there would be “no forgiveness” for policemen using their mobile phones for recreational purposes, such as in watching videos and scrolling through their social media feed while on duty.

“This is my first and last warning: no cell phones during duties. We need patrols. If we catch you using a cell phone, there will be no forgiveness. We are very strict about this,” he said.

Less time on rites, parades

Policemen, he said, should also spend less time in flag-raising ceremonies and parades to better serve the public.

“Before 8 o’clock [in the morning], we should be ready to accept all our clients… That’s [when] people will like us—if we are early and their problems are solved as fast as possible,” he said.

President Marcos, during the PNP change of command on Monday, challenged Marbil and the PNP to work with other government agencies to curb “emerging threats” to national security: cybercrime, transnational crimes, and terrorism.

Marbil vowed to ensure “continuity and improvement” in the PNP, as he acknowledged that their scope of responsibilities was evolving in a changing society.

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Marbil said: “The [PNP] recognizes that effective law enforcement nowadays requires competency and innovation in the use and application of technology to its overall operation and daily work.”

TAGS: Drug war, Rommel Francisco Marbil

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