Duterte demotes police again in drug war

Manila (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has again demoted his police force from the lead role in his controversial drug war, authorities said yesterday, as he faced growing opposition to the deadly crackdown.

The nation’s drug enforcement agency will take the lead but police must maintain “visibility” as a deterrent against traffickers and users, according to a presidential order released by his office.

Police have reported killing 3,850 people in anti-drug operations since Duterte took office in the middle of last year. He stormed to an election victory after promising 100,000 people would die as he eradicated illegal drugs in society. Many Filipinos continue to support the crackdown but a survey last month showed the first major drop in Duterte’s popularity, which followed rare street protests that were triggered by police allegedly murdering two teenagers.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will take the “lead” in the crackdown, according to a statement released by the president’s office to explain Duterte’s order, which was signed on Tuesday.

PDEA has fewer than 2,000 officers while the Philippine National Police has more than 165,000.