Duterte vows anew to resign if he fails to solve drug crisis

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday, Nov. 24, vowed anew he would resign if he fails to solve the country’s drug crisis.

He made these remarks amid the ongoing deliberations in the Senate on the 2018 national budget, including the proposed budget for the Oplan Double Barrel anti-drug campaign of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Pag hindi ko kaya ito, bababa talaga ako. Sabihin ko sa inyo,” he told the 1st Scout Rangers in San Miguel, Bulacan, on the occasion of their 57th founding anniversary. (If I can’t solve this, I will really step down, I tell you.)

“And if I cannot control drugs then maybe it is time for me to think about resignation,” he also said.

He elicited his audience’s applause when he said, “I have not yet signed the executive order [reverting the antidrug campaign to the PNP]. But I am inclined to call back the police and join again in the drug war.”

Mr. Duterte’s inclination to have the PNP once again lead the drug war elicited various responses from the Senate.

For Senate President Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III, there is still time to adjust the 2018 budget for Oplan Double Barrel should Mr. Duterte make official his recent pronouncements.

“We should be aware of the President’s latest pronouncements. May time pa to adjust (There is still time to adjust),” Mr. Pimentel said.

During the Senate interpellation on the proposed budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) last Nov. 17, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said he would seek the realignment of the P900 million allotted for the PNP’s anti-illegal drug campaign including the DILG’s P500 million for its Masa Masid program, a crime, corruption, and anti-illegal drugs prevention program in barangays.

Mr. Drilon said he would propose in the period of amendments that both funds should go to the PNP’s housing since the campaign is currently with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

In a statement issued collectively by his fellow Liberal senators, Mr. Drilon also said that if the government is serious in its drug war, it should use all possible means to pursue those behind the drug shipment and find out the identity of a certain “Tita Nanie.”

The statement noted that customs broker Mark Taguba named “Tita Nanie” as the one behind the influential “Davao Group,” whom he approached to facilitate the entry of his shipments.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson for his part said that if the President’s plan to return the anti-drug campaign happens after Congress ratifies the bicameral conference committee report, “the P900 million…cannot be reinstated anymore unless the President exercises his veto power when he approves the national budget.”

Mr. Lacson shared that, based on “his talks with some senior grade police officials who were directly involved in drug-related operations before (Mr. Duterte) took the task away from them, and who will again be at the forefront in the event that they are redeployed for the same mission, they have now become more conscious, if not wary of possible dire consequences of the excesses committed by the men under their command.”

“It now seems to be the common sentiment shared by many PNP personnel. This is mainly due to the many investigations conducted by the Senate that have exposed such human rights abuses like the Karl Arnaiz and Kian de los Santos (murders) and other similar incidents that put them on the spot and under closer scrutiny by different human rights groups and advocates,” Mr. Lacson added.

“[T]he rest remains to be seen when the primary task of handling the drug problem is finally given back to them. When that happens, the key is vigilance to always put them on notice that they are being watched,” said the senator, a former PNP chief during the Estrada administration.

Senators Gregorio B. Honasan II and Ralph G. Recto, for their part, do not see any problem with the President’s pronouncement.

“Any realignment of functions and mission including presidential prerogatives and powers are allowed by the law to serve public order and safety, protect life, liberty, and property,” Mr. Honasan said.

For Mr. Recto, “That’s the prerogative of the president. I hope the PNP has learned from its mistakes.”

He said the PNP this time should be “more careful and should protect the rights of the suspects.”

For her part, Senator Grace Poe said the PDEA is the right agency to handle the anti-drug campaign.

“Since PDEA is legally mandated to be the country’s primary agency in the anti-drug campaign, it would be ideal if the PDEA retained leadership and the PNP lends its full operational muscle to fill up the lack in manpower besetting the drug agency,” Ms. Poe said.

“We must not forget that the PNP has been involved in too many controversial operations, thus casting doubt on the organization’s ability to uphold the rule of law and respect basic rights. With PDEA remaining on top of the operations and with PNP as main support, the government will be able to help rectify the manner or conduct of such operations. This is also consistent with the President’s desire to pursue a more vigorous anti-drug campaign,” Ms. Poe added.

Ms. Poe also said “the PNP must clean up its organization and strengthen the IAS (Internal Affairs Service).”

Meanwhile, Malacañang on Friday criticized a joint statement by three United Nations Special Rapporteurs who reiterated their call to the Philippine government to investigate the killings in the course of the drug war.

On Thursday, UN Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard, Michel Forst, and Diego Garcia-Sayan issued a joint statement that read in part: “United Nations human rights experts have called on the Government of the Philippines to carry out prompt, impartial investigations into the high number of killings in the context of the anti-drugs campaign, to bring the perpetrators to justice, and thoroughly review its current policy in this regard, with a view to stopping further attacks taking place.”

“A great number of new cases have been reported to us involving killings of men, women and children,” the statement added, as it also noted that the killings being reported to them appear to be perpetrated by law enforcement officials and by unknown assailants.

“The Philippines is required to protect its population, and its Government has a positive obligation to take effective measures to protect the right to life. Failure to do so is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the statement also read.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., for his part said: “We saw this when an entire city police force (Caloocan Police District) was relieved after violations in operational procedures. This is a proof that we investigate and punish erring policemen and hence, discharged our state obligation to protect and promote human rights. We believe that accountability is an indispensable part of good governance and the President himself made a clear stance that legitimate operations follow protocols.”

“We therefore decry the Special Rapporteurs who signed the joint statement for making negative assumptions about the country despite our explanations to the contrary,” he added.

Mr. Roque also said the government will not allow “biased individuals parading themselves as human rights experts to abuse such a mechanism to bully States by concocting falsehoods.” — Arjay L. Balinbin and Rosemarie A. Zamora