The Philippine National Police (PNP) announced the launch of Operation “Double Barrel Reloaded,” the next phase in a highly-controversial drug war that its critics say has left thousands dead without due process.
PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa announced on Monday that the police would accept volunteers to help capture drug criminals and disable trafficking syndicates. “Men of burning desire, you can report to the drug enforcement group. You can volunteer to join the war, with a burning desire to help in this campaign to help this country,” he announced.
Singapore’s Straits Times reports that the new operation will be code-named “Double Barrel Reloaded” and will refocus to “high value” targets — bosses in the drug trafficking world, rather than low-level addicts or dealers. Dela Rosa told reporters the operation was necessary because, in the month since President Rodrigo Duterte suspended anti-drug operations, police had documented a new resurgence in drug crime. “It only goes to show that we cannot afford to lower our guard when confronting a vicious enemy. There must be continuity of effort if the desire is to completely eradicate the problem,” dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa is also launching a special police unit known as the “Drug Enforcement Group (DEG)” to target drug traffickers. The PNP thus will lose its authority to investigate drug crime. “We will be forming a new drug enforcement group manned by a new set of officers. Its members would be selected from a few,” he explained.
Dela Rosa told reporters he expected the new phase of the drug war to be “less bloody, if not bloodless.”
As a presidential candidate last year, President Duterte won election to the nation’s highest office on a platform promising the “bloody” elimination of drug suspects and “1,000 pardons a day” for the police who kill them. Duterte halted all anti-drug operations last month, however, after the killing of a South Korean businessman, whom police kidnapped and demanded a ransom for before killing.
In a dramatic press conference before 228 policemen currently under investigation for corruption, Duterte postponed anti-drug operations and threatened to personally kill corrupt police officers in a duel. Those standing before him, he promised, would be taken off the anti-drug beat and sent to Basilan, a southern Philippines hotbed of radical Islamic terrorism. “Live there for two years,” Duterte commanded. “If you get out alive, you can return here. If you die there, I will tell the police not to spend anything to bring you back here but to bury you there.”
Following the South Korean businessman incident, dela Rosa volunteered to resign, but Duterte refused to accept his resignation, insisting he still had work to do.
In addition to the controversy surrounding the killing of the South Korean national, human rights agencies have increased their demand for more transparency in extrajudicial killing data in the country, accusing Duterte of human rights violations in the country. “When you kill criminals, that is not a crime against humanity,” Duterte said last week, in response to a Human Rights Watch report. “The criminals have no humanity. God damn it.”
Duterte has also dismissed the congressional testimony of Arturo Lascanas, a retired police officer who claims to have led Duterte’s personal “death squads” when he was mayor of southern Davao City, where he served for 22 years before becoming president. Lascanas claims to have made $2,000 a month out of Duterte’s pocket for running the extrajudicial killing system in the city. Duterte spokesman Ernesto Abella called Lascanas’s testimony “fabricated and unacceptable.”