By AARON RECUENCO
Anti-narcotics operatives are now focusing on what police describe as high-value targets of illegal drugs trade, the reason behind the reduction of slain suspected drug pushers and users.
From the average of 105 a week at the height of the drugs war, the death toll has reduced to 23 a week.
Director General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the shift was part of the recalibrated drug war wherein anti-drugs police forces were instructed to run after key players in the drugs trade based on the information that would be provided by the intelligence community.
“We calibrated our war on drugs because that is part of our focus, a focus on high value targets on our list,” said Albayalde.
More than 4,000 suspected drug pushers and users were killed in police operations since the drug war was launched in July 2016 – the peak was in second half of 2016 and early part of 2017.
On the other hand, more thousands of suspected drug pushers and users were killed by suspected vigilante groups that were reportedly emboldened by President Duterte’s drug war.
Sources said the number of homicide investigations since July 2016 has already reached more than 23,000, but police said only a few of them are related to illegal drugs.
The PNP leadership, however, denied the 23,000 homicide cases figure but would not release the data on what it first referred to as Death Under Investigation. The last data released by the PNP on Death Under Investigation – now referred to as Homicide Cases Under Investigation, was in December 2016.
“Before, we all know that there were some who took advantage of that. Now because of our recalibrated approach, we are now focusing on those listed and high-value targets,” said Albayalde.
Shortly after President Duterte declared that drug war must continue to be relentless and chilling during his third State of the Nation Address on July 23, the PNP leadership has ordered a recalibration of the illegal drugs campaign.
Aside from the high value targets, Albayalde also ordered for the accounting for the remaining 1,656 drug users and monitoring of the whereabouts and activities of almost 1.3 million drug users and street pushers who already surrendered.