PNP to resume anti-drug operations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 6) — The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday said it will resume its controversial anti-drug operations following President Rodrigo Duterte's green light for it to rejoin the war on drugs.

The police will continue "Oplan Tokhang" and "Oplan Double Barrel," PNP Spokesperson Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said in a press briefing.

"Tokhang" is the flagship campaign against illegal drugs, where the policemen visit homes of suspected drug personalities. This was followed by "Double Barrel," which aims to address the issue through "Project Tokhang" or the lower barrel approach and "Project HVT (high value targets)" or the upper barrel approach.

In Memorandum Order No. 17 signed Tuesday, Duterte directed the PNP and other law enforcement agencies to "resume providing active support to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations."

READ: Duterte allows police to go back to drug war

Carlos said the PNP will have to defer to PDEA, which remains the lead agency in the drug war.

PDEA stressed that the police would need prior coordination with PDEA on any anti-drug operation. When a Tokhang operation is concluded, the PNP must submit to PDEA a full report within six hours if possible. This has been acknowledged by the PNP.

"In the days to come, we will have some operational coordination because there will be instances where the presence of some of PDEA agents in certain operation may not be needed. For instance, if it is not a high impact operation, then perhaps di na kailangan (it's no longer needed)," PDEA Spokesperson Derrick Carreon said.

Bato's order: Lessen casualties

Carlos said PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa's order was to "lessen casualties, lessen the opportunity to disrupt, sabotage the campaign."

He said measures will be in place to prevent bloody operations. These include policemen wearing body cameras to record their operations.

The policemen were ordered to be more cautious and warned that corrupt and abusive cops will be removed from the force, Carlos said.

Over 3,900 drug suspects were killed in police operations since the start of the bloody drug war in July 2016, PDEA data show.

Commission on Human Rights Spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia said on Wednesday that she hopes the PNP follows PDEA's lead, noting that there were fewer reported deaths when PDEA was at the helm of the drug war.

READ: PDEA reveals death toll since taking over drug war

"We do respect the prerogative of the administration to bring back the PNP in the campaign against drugs," she said. "It's actually encouraging to note that PDEA is still in the lead and the PNP will only play a supportive role, as well as other law enforcement agencies, because PDEA has the expertise and they are mandated by law to implement R.A. 9165."

De Guia was referring to Republic Act 9165 or the "Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002," which said PDEA must "take charge" in anti-illegal drug operations.

Local and international human rights groups have said that Duterte, in his public pronouncements, ordered or encouraged policemen to kill those involved in the drug trade. They claimed this resulted in more than 13,000 extrajudicial killings in the drug war.

Malacañang, however, has repeatedly said there are no state-sponsored killings and committed to investigate officers who violate and abuse their power.

The group Human Rights Watch said allowing the PNP to return to the drug war would only result in a rise in alleged extrajudicial killings.

Duterte ordered PDEA on October 10 to take over anti-drug operations amid alleged police abuses.

READ: Duterte gives PDEA lead role in drug war

On October 12, the PNP suspended its anti-drug operations.

READ: No more 'Oplan Tokhang': Police suspends all anti-drug operations

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Xianne Arcangel, and Digital Producers Eimor Santos and VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.