Philippine official: Drug war tougher in 2020

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MANILA (Philippine Star) — Human rights groups may find it hard to believe, but lately the Philippine National Police has been exercising tolerance in dealing with drug suspects. This, however, is about to change in 2020, according to the PNP officer-in-charge.

Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa warned over the weekend that drug personalities should change their ways or face the “maximum force of the law” in the coming year.

He noted that drug suspects seem to be oblivious to the government’s war on drugs despite the killing of thousands.

“We will give you the maximum force of the law. If it would mean your neutralization in the course of it; we won’t think twice, especially now that many of our policemen have been killed because of our tolerance,” he said.

Gamboa, who is a lawyer, said drug suspects continue to ply their trade as police have been “probably lenient” and careful to avoid casualties.

He directed police anti-narcotics officers not to hesitate to take action in law enforcement operations when their lives are in danger.

“If there is an immediate threat then by all means we are allowed to neutralize them in whatever capacity we have,” Gamboa said.

At least 5,552 suspected drug pushers and users have been killed for allegedly resisting arrest since President Duterte took office in July 2016.

The PNP, meanwhile, said more than 50 police officers have died in clashes with drug suspects.

Police have shifted focus from street peddlers to high-value targets in an effort to further put a dent on the illegal drug trade.

Since July 2016, a total of 885 high-value targets in the drug war have been arrested, including 297 elected officials, 347 government employees and 82 members of the uniformed service.

Also arrested were 222 foreigners and 10 celebrities. The rest were either high-profile leaders and members of drug syndicates, members of private armed groups and drug den maintainers.

Gamboa earlier said the last quarter of the year was a difficult time for the PNP as they grappled with the controversies which hounded former police chief Oscar Albayalde.

Albayalde went on non-duty status after weeks of controversy linking him to “ninja cops” or police officers who recycle illegal drugs.

Gamboa, who took over the PNP’s top post following Albayalde’s departure, has promised to institute reforms to repair the police force’s image.

“We admit we faltered and that’s why I had a very great challenge ahead of me on how we can regain the public’s trust,” he said.

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