World

Duterte orders drug agency to take over police in drug war

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the police to leave all operations in his war on drugs to the drug enforcement agency, amid scrutiny of police conduct.

Mr Duterte's office yesterday made public a memorandum telling the police, military and other state bodies to leave the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency "as sole agency" for all campaigns and operations.

It was unclear why Mr Duterte had ordered the change in the role of the police, who have been responsible for the majority of arrests and killings in the 15-month-old campaign.

The order could blunt the intensity of the crackdown, since the drug enforcement agency has only a fraction of the manpower of the 190,000-strong police.

But it was not the first time the mercurial leader has decreed that the agency should lead the drug war.

Mr Duterte suspended police anti-drug operations in late January, to cleanse a force that he called "corrupt to the core", but lifted that ban five weeks later, saying drugs were flooding back to the streets.

The memorandum, signed on Tuesday, ordered the police force at all times to "maintain police visibility, as a deterrent to illegal activities", while restricting operations to the drug agency.

Its aim was "to bring order to the operations or campaign against illegal drugs, thus pinpointing precise accountability", the document said.

More than 3,900 Filipinos have been killed in what the police called self-defence after armed suspects resisted arrest.

 

Critics disputed that and said executions are taking place, with zero accountability, allegations the police reject.

Mr Duterte's move follows the August killing of a teenager by the police that sparked rare public outrage after a security camera showed the victim in custody, contrary to a police report that he was a drug dealer who tried to shoot them.

It also follows a protest against Mr Duterte last month by thousands of people in Manila, and a series of opinion polls highlighting doubts among many Filipinos about official police accounts and whether those killed were all drug dealers.- REUTERS

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