Duterte names PDEA as 'sole agency' for drug war

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"Under Republic Act 9165, PDEA can seek assistance from any law enforcement agencies in the conduct of illegal drugs", Aquino said.

PNP spokesperson Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said Thursday that the implementation of Project Double Barrel and Oplan Tokhang are terminated and all police drug enforcement units (DEU) are dissolved.

Abella said the PDEA would now elevate the campaign against illegal drugs as it has widened its scope.

The message will sound familiar, with similar announcements made a year ago, when the authorities launched Project Double Barrel Alpha to focus on tracking down drug producers and suppliers.

Months after the hiatus, the PNP resumed its anti-drug operations with a promise to eliminate rogue cops under "Oplan Double Barrel, Reloaded" - which saw even more deaths, including those of teenagers.

Madrid said police officers may still make arrests if the illegal drug transaction is happening in front of them.

Duterte has lashed out several times when responding to comments from experts, calling some "idiots" for contradicting his views, or for advocating strategies to target the source of the drugs, rather than consumers.

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That suspension came after a South Korean businessman was kidnapped and killed by anti-drug police.

The change in tack comes at a hard time for Duterte, who though still hugely popular, saw a sharp decline in ratings according to an opinion poll released on Sunday.

Duterte, in a memorandum signed on October 10, tasked the PDEA to conduct anti-illegal drug operations "against all those who directly or indirectly, and in whatever manner or capacity, are involved in or connected with illegal drugs".

Duterte's move follows the high-profile August killing of a 17-year-old student by police, which triggered rare public outrage.

Aquino offered these assurances after President Rodrigo Duterte said the PDEA would be the sole agency in charge of the war on drugs in view of public outrae over alleged police abuses.

In January, he also suspended police from the war on drugs, calling them corrupt, but reinstated them again shortly afterwards. "If the crime is being committed in our presence and we have personal knowledge that a crime is being committed or is about to be committed we will effect the arrest", Madrid said.

"We will target the source, the so-called big fish".

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He said PDEA will operate against high-value targets, especially those who are included in Duterte's narcolist and those involved in street level pushing.

Carreon said he could not guarantee there would be less bloodshed.

"We follow the procedures, we don't want an encounter but we also have to protect ourselves if drug suspects resist and fight back", he said.

Specifically, Duterte accused the European Union of interfering in Philippine affairs.

Meanwhile, a lawyer's group on Wednesday filed a petition before the Supreme Court to stop the police from implementing the administration's war on drugs. "They must be encouraged to do their share", he said.

Senator JV Ejercito, who is the sponsor of the DILG's budget, said the department and the PNP were amenable to shelving the drop box system.

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