gen. Rommel marble MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines – General Rommel Marbil, the new chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the crackdown on drug syndicates would continue under his leadership, but he did not want it to be associated with the bloody “war” that marked the previous PNP operations against criminal groups and suspected small sellers or users.

Instead, the anti-drug campaign “will always seek the rule of law,” Marbil said at a press conference at Camp Crame on Tuesday, after presiding over his first command conference as PNP chief.

READ: Reported deaths alarm CHR after drug war revives in Davao City

“I don’t want to say there is a war on drugs. This denotes that we are at war again… We will move towards a 100% drug-free community,” he said.

The anti-narcotics campaign launched by former President Rodrigo Duterte through the PNP's “Oplan Tokhang” led to the deaths of 6,000 people based on official estimates, with the deaths attributed to both police operations and vigilante-style killings. Human rights groups, however, said the number could be much higher.

'Quota system'

Marbil said the PNP has discontinued its “quota system” for confiscated drugs and arrests as a performance indicator of law enforcement achievements.

“It is no longer who has the highest number of arrests or confiscations. It's more about meeting your area's goals… If this area has more estimates [drug] Users [and traders]so they are expected to have more arrests than others,” he said.

“We don’t need a contest. It’s an old system,” he added, without saying whether this was a practice in the PNP at the height of the anti-drug campaign during the Duterte administration from 2016 to 2022.

TO READ: The politics of the war on drugs

Asked about the wave of murders in Davao City after its mayor, Sebastian Duterte, son of the former president, declared war on illegal drugs, Marbil said there would be “responsibility and transparency” in its operations.

President Marcos, in comments made during his visit to Germany last month, said that his administration's approach to the illegal drug problem has “changed significantly.” The President said he was “diametrically” opposed to the use of violence in the fight against illegal drugs.

Limited phone use

Marbil, who was sworn in as the 30th chief of the PNP to replace retired Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. on Monday, also wanted greater police visibility.

“I need beat patrols, I want people to feel the presence of our police officers on the ground,” he said.

Marbil said he wanted PNP personnel to focus on their work, warning that there would be “no forgiveness” for police officers who used their cell phones for recreational purposes, such as watching videos and browsing social media while on duty.

“This is my first and last warning: no cell phones during duties. We need patrols. If we catch you using a cell phone, there will be no forgiveness. We are very strict about this,” he said.

Less time in rites, parades

Police officers, he said, should also spend less time on flag-raising ceremonies and parades to better serve the public.

“Before 8 o’clock [in the morning]we must be ready to accept all our customers… That is [when] people will like us – if we arrive early and their problems are resolved as quickly as possible,” he said.

President Marcos, during the PNP change of command on Monday, challenged Marbil and the PNP to work with other government agencies in containing “emerging threats” to national security: cybercrime, transnational crimes and terrorism.

Marbil promised to ensure “continuity and improvement” in the PNP, as he recognized that its scope of responsibilities was evolving in a changing society.

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Marbil said: “The [PNP] recognizes that effective law enforcement today requires competence and innovation in the use and application of technology in its general functioning and daily work.” INQ