PDEA chief disputes Bato claims on crime

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa

MANILA — The head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has questioned the claim of his counterpart in the Philippine National Police that the number of rape-slay cases and other crimes increased when the PNP was pulled out of the war against illegal drugs.

PDEA director general Aaron Aquino said it was wrong for PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa to conclude that criminality is on the rise just because they are no longer involved in the fight against drugs.

Aquino said Dela Rosa has no one else to blame if there is a rise in rape-slay cases as it falls within PNP’s anti-criminality responsibilities, even if they are out of the war on drugs.

“It is their responsibility. Let us be clear that anti-criminality is their job, it is not ours. If there was an increase in the supply and demand on illegal drugs, that’s our problem, but if there was an increase in crime like rape, it is not our problem,” Aquino said on Monday.

Dela Rosa earlier this month expressed alarm over the increase of rape-slay cases, which occurred after the PNP was taken out of the war on illegal drugs.

Dela Rosa cited the case of 22-year-old Mabel Cama, a bank employee who was reportedly raped, killed and her body set on fire in Pasig City.

The PNP was pulled out of the drug war amid allegations of abuse and extrajudicial killings in their anti-illegal drug operations.

President Duterte directed the PNP, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Customs, Philippine Postal Corp. and other agencies to refrain from spearheading drug operations to avoid conflict in an order dated Oct. 10.

Dela Rosa claimed the people involved in the killings are high on drugs, an allegation which Aquino was quick to refute.

“What was their basis for that? If there is rape, the offender was high on drugs? Give me the basis and statistics to prove those claims,” Aquino said.

Aquino added that while he wished for the PNP to return to the campaign against drugs, this does not mean that there will no longer be rape cases, as evidenced by their combined performance before the order was issued.

“Was the number of rape cases reduced when the PNP and PDEA jointly led the war on drugs?” Aquino remarked.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said they monitored fewer incidents of killings when the PDEA took over the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

“We have noticed that when the campaign was transferred to PDEA, while (the killings) did not stop, the number of deaths has decreased,” CHR Chairman Chito Gascon said.

“We are hoping that with the return of the police in the operations against drugs, they will follow operational procedures on use of force and hopefully the number of deaths will not increase,” he added.

Gascon made the statement in reaction to Duterte’s directive for the PNP to retake the lead in the war on drugs from PDEA.

Gascon urged law enforcement agencies to ensure that they follow operational procedures, particularly the guidelines on the use of force.

Official figures on the number of deaths with PDEA leading the drug war have yet to be released.

Gascon, however, noted the stark contrast during the time of the PNP when thousands died in police operations and in the hands of suspected vigilantes.

Gascon said CHR is ready to monitor the return of the PNP in the war against illegal drugs, saying they will call out irregularities.

“We assure the public that we in the CHR are ready to communicate with law enforcement agencies should they need to be reminded of their (human rights obligations) as mandated by the law,” he said.

Gascon said they are also ready to seek the assistance of the Office of the Ombudsman should the Department of Justice fail to hold to account those responsible for the killings.