Philippine army prepares to create to new ‘battalion size’ unit to help take down drug syndicates
Announcement was made after it emerged last month that drug squad police officers had killed a South Korean businessman
The Philippine army will create a “battalion size” task force to assist the government’s anti-narcotics agency purse its high-value targets in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, the country’s military chief said.
Duterte – who recently suspended the national police from the anti-narcotics campaign that has killed more than 7,700 people in seven months – has ordered the military to play a role in his crackdown. He has said he also wants to grant troops powers to arrest “scalawag” police.
The announcement was made after it emerged last month that drug squad officers had killed a South Korean businessman at national police headquarters.
The troops, however, will only provide backup in the campaign and not patrol the streets or play any kind of leading role, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Chief Isidro Lapena said earlier this month.
“We are ready to operate with the PDEA. [The task force] is yet to be created, but we are talking about a battalion size,” Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] Chief General Eduardo Ano said on Saturday in Baguio City, where Duterte attended a military alumni homecoming.
Ano, however, ruled out a bloody operation by the task force, unlike some of the raids conducted by the national police.
“The AFP will not do that, we will not be involved in the street, we’ll not be involved in running after street pushers,” he said. “The armed forces will help the PDEA in running after high-level drug syndicates.”
In his speech during the military alumni homecoming, Duterte said: “I need the help of each one, especially the military, not for social control but protection [for] the citizens from the lawless, the reckless, and the selfish.”