With an undermanned, ill-equipped Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) now at the helm of the drug war, arrests of drug suspects in Bohol has practically plummeted to zero in recent days.
The drastic slowdown has drawn mixed reactions from law enforcement and the public in general.
No drug raids or buy-bust operations have been reported since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the removal of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the government’s war on drugs last week, as this also resulted in the deactivation of anti-illegal drug units in the different police stations.
Some city residents, however, expressed concern that illegal drugs, especially shabu, might proliferate back into the streets with the absence of anti-drug operations.
Bohol Provincial Police Office (BPPO) community relations officer Supt. George Vale on Thursday expressed support for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) new role at the frontlines of the campaign against narcotics trade.
This was after Vale admitted that barring the police from launching anti-narcotics efforts would be beneficial as some local policemen are facing cases related to the conduct of anti-drug operations.
He also noted that he himself is facing a case lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the police’s anti-drug operations.
On the other hand, Vale said he was dismayed by the decision as the police were barred from conducting operations just when the BPPO’s campaign against drugs has shown significant progress.
However, the former police chief of Tagbilaran City said that the BPPO is ready to extend support to the PDEA should the agency request for backup units during anti-drug operations.
Based on the government’s new policy, the PNP has been relegated to “maintain police visibility as a deterrent to illegal drug activities.”
Police are no longer allowed to conduct buy-bust operations and serve search warrants for drugs but are allowed to arrest those caught in the act of carrying out illegal drug activities.
Meanwhile, the police will still be gathering intelligence information on local narcotics trade as support for the PDEA in its drive against illegal drugs.
Earlier this month, Duterte signed a directive ordering the PDEA to be the sole law enforcement agency that will carry out his war on drugs.
Duterte’s new policy came after the release of a Social Weather Stations survey which indicated a sharp decline in his satisfaction and trust ratings.
The president’s net satisfaction rating, although still considered “good,” dipped by 18 points to 48, according to the September poll with 1,200 Filipino respondents.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, through national media, earlier ascribed the rating decline to the alleged drug-related killing of three minors by PNP personnel in Metro Manila.