Philippines' Duterte hopes drugs war
shift will satisfy 'bleeding hearts'
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[October 12, 2017]
By Manuel Mogato and Neil Jerome Morales
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President
Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday he hoped a shift to target big networks
in his war on drugs would satisfy "bleeding hearts" and interfering
Western states fixated on the high death toll in his brutal crackdown.
In a televised speech, Duterte read a memorandum that removes police
from the drugs war and places the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency
(PDEA) in charge, then launched a curse-laden tirade at foreign critics
of a campaign that has killed thousands of Filipinos.
Duterte took aim at a group of European parliamentarians and civil
society groups, some of whom this week reportedly warned the Philippines
risked losing trade privileges because of unchecked abuses by police
during his signature campaign.
"I am not interested anymore in using any other (agency), just let
PDEA," he said.
"They seem to want it, I want, as a last word, maybe this would suffice
for the stupid European Union guys. They were all focused on how many
It was unclear whether the decision to change tactics was influenced by
The administration on Thursday said the shift was to target "big fish",
moving away from street level operations to go after big networks and
Police disbanded all 18 regional anti-drugs units on Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the new aim was for PDEA to
target "higher echelons of the syndicates, as well as their protectors
That message will sound familiar, with similar announcements a year ago
when a new phase of the drugs war was launched to catch producers and
Critics say that never happened and small-time dealers and users and the
urban poor continued to bear the brunt of the 3,900 killings by police.
Police say armed suspects resisted arrest in every one of those cases
and they deny allegations victims were executed.
Duterte was furious on Thursday and appeared to suggest the European
lawmakers had warned the Philippines could lose its U.N. membership.
Duterte lashed out at Western powers who colonized countries, started
wars, "stole" oil from the Middle East, and said they had import
terrorism to their own shores.
He dared them to cut ties with the Philippines and have their
ambassadors leave within 24 hours. He said his new alliances with Russia
and China - U.N. Security Council permanent members - would keep the
Philippines in the United Nations.
[to top of second column]
Philippines 'President Rodrigo Duterte stands at attention during a
courtesy call with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) Economic Ministers in Manila, Philippines, September 6,
2017. REUTERS/Pool/Mark Cristino
"We will be excluded in the U.N.? You son of a bitch. Go ahead. You
are interfering in our affairs because we are poor. You give money
and then you start to orchestrate what things should be done," he
"You bullshit. We are past the colonization stage. Don't fuck with
The strategic shift in his war on drugs comes at a difficult time
for Duterte, who though still hugely popular, saw a sharp decline in
ratings according to a poll released on Sunday.
It also followed an anti-Duterte protest last month by thousands of
people and rare public outrage over the killing by police of a
teenager. Several surveys released recently show doubts among
Filipinos about the validity of police accounts, and whether victims
were all drug dealers.
With only a fraction of the manpower and budget of the police, PDEA
will have a challenge to keep up the intensity of the crackdown.
Duterte placed PDEA in charge in January and suspended police from
anti-drugs operations. But he reinstated them a few week later,
arguing drugs had returned to the streets.
PDEA spokesman Derrick Carreon said the agency was up to the task.
"We are ready, we can do it," Carreon said.
"We will target the source, the so-called big fish. Removing these
high-value targets will also eliminate the street level distribution
and disrupt the entire network."
Duterte acknowledged the death toll in PDEA's operations was smaller
than that of police, and said human rights groups and the media
should be happy.
"Let's go there. No death, no encounter. So better for the bleeding
hearts and media. I hope I will satisfy you," he said.
(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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