Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he may put police back in charge of his trademark campaign on narcotics trade and distribution.
Duterte’s remarks came late Friday after his declaration earlier this month to remove police forces from his anti-drug battle following repeated allegations of rights abuses and extrajudicial killings of suspects at the hands of the police forces.
He has replaced the police force with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which has nearly 2,000 officers, compared with the 165,000-strong police force.
The Philippine president raised doubts about the PDEA’s capability to control narcotics distribution and said he would be ready to shoot criminals himself if the PDEA couldn’t.
“Those who rape children, who rape women,… If you don’t want the police, I am here now. I will shoot them. That’s true! If nobody would dare it, I will pull the trigger,” he said.
Duterte also said he was already considering placing the police back in charge of his anti-drug campaign.
“Okay, let us see, six months from now. If things get worse again, I will say to these apes: ‘Go back to this job. You solve this problem of ours,’” he added, referring to the police force.
Reacting to Duterte’s latest remarks, PDEA spokesman Derrick Arnold Carreon admitted that the agency faced a tough battle and was prepared to stand aside in favor of the police force.
“If the president so decides, we will welcome that,” Carreon stated. “We are strained. Definitely it will be an uphill climb.”
Duterte was elected to presidency last year on a platform of pledging to eradicate drugs dealing in the country in six months, although he later admitted that the country lacked the resources to end the drug problem anytime soon.
Since then, police authorities have reported killing more than 3,900 “drug personalities.” Another 2,290 people have died in unsolved “drug-related” killings, government figures indicate.