By Aaron Recuenco
Three years after President Duterte launched his war on drugs, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is continuously being hounded by controversies ranging from allegations on human rights abuses and costly operational blunders.
While it is the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) which should be at the front of fighting illegal drugs, it is the PNP that serves as the face of Duterte’s bloody drug war since it is the law enforcement unit that deals with street-level pushing and drug abuses on a daily basis.
The reason is simple but compelling, according to the PNP leadership: There is a correlation between crime and drug abuse.
The proof, according to PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde, can be seen in the crime statistics in the past three years.
From July 2016 when the drug war was launched up to June 2018, PNP data disclosed that there was a 21.5 percent decline in the crime rate compared to crime data from July 2014 to June 2016.
For the entire 2018, there was a nine percent decrease in the crime volume compared in 2017. And from January to March this year, the crime rate drop was at 3.3 percent.
In Metro Manila which serves as the microcosm of the crime situation in the entire country, the crime decline in the past three years of the Duterte administration is at 58 percent, according to Metro Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar.
The consistent crime decline, according to Albayalde, is proof that the government is on the right path of the drug war.
“Our basis for saying that we are winning is because of the continuous decline of our crime volume which translates to improvement of peace and order.
This is backed by recent surveys which showed a good trust and confidence on the PNP and positive perception in the peace and order in the country, according to him.
But the PNP’s daily confrontation of illegal drugs problems in the street comes with the price as it is has been accused of being one of the main instruments of alleged extra-judicial killings in the country.
Some 6,600 suspected drug pushers and users died in the police operations since July 2016. At least 50 policemen, on the other hand, were also killed in the process.
Thousands of suspected drug pushers and users were also killed by drug war-inspired vigilante groups in the past years.
While the PNP used to report daily the figure in what it earlier called as Death Under Investigation or DUI, it stopped to do in December 2016 as the national police leadership then stated that it was “maliciously” reported as drug war casualties.
The drug war casualty figures, along with “collateral damage” or those who died or were wounded after being caught in the crossfire or were mistakenly killed or wounded, became the basis for the UNHCR to adopt a resolution, through Iceland, to investigate the drug war.