PHILIPPINE police have agreed to review their knock-and-plead strategy against suspected drug traffickers that is linked to illegal executions, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo said yesterday.
Ms. Robredo, the opposition leader whom President Rodrigo R. Duterte put in charge of his deadly war on drugs, said police officials would come up with an “improved version” of the strategy.
“It was properly laid out but obviously there were gaps because there were abuses in how it was implemented,” the vice president told reporters in Filipino, according to a transcript emailed by her office yesterday.
“I raised that to them and they agreed it is time to re-assess how the campaign can evoke that it’s not directed against people but it’s a campaign of the people,” she added.
Ms. Robredo briefed reporters after meeting with law enforcers on Thursday about the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign that she now heads.
Philippine police have said they have killed about 6,000 people in illegal drug raids, many of them resisting arrest. Some local nongovernmental organizations and the national Commission on Human Rights have placed the death toll at more than 27,000.
The opposition leader last week said she had agreed to head the Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign, if only to stop the killings. She accepted the post against the advice of many of her party mates, who said the appointment might be a trap.
Double Barrel is the police’s anti-illegal drug drive enforced when Mr. Duterte took office in July 2016. Under the campaign, police knocked on the doors of suspected drug pushers and pleaded with them to change and surrender. The drive targeted local and international drug traffickers.
Police suspended the strategy in October 2017 on Mr. Duterte’s order after alleged abuses. It was relaunched months after with new guidelines, such as conducting operations only at daytime.
Ms. Robredo last week vowed to enforce the state’s anti-illegal drug campaign “within the bounds of the rule of law.” She said she would treat the drug problem not only as a crime, but also as a health issue.
The vice president has repeatedly cited the need to re-assess the government strategy against illegal drugs given the rising number of drug dependents.
“I’m very optimistic,” Ms. Robredo yesterday said of the government’s anti-drug campaign. She added that once agencies’ functions are synchronized and they get the support of the National Government, “we will be able to make a lot of headway.” — NPA