Presidente Duterte Allows Police to Go Back to Drug War

But Roque clarified the President's order does not say if the police force can resume Project Tokhang. The decision came as pollster Social Weather Stations revealed its third-quarter report that showed that the popularity of Duterte's illegal drugs campaign had declined since December 2016.

Q&A Why is Duterte's war on drugs controversial?

Aquino said he issued the statement after recent PDEA anti-drug operations revealed that hotels were being used as choice venues to consume, sell and deliver risky drugs.

Duterte said at the time the police force was "corrupt to the core".

"There has been a notable resurgence in illegal drug activities and crimes committed", Roque said as he read the order.

From the onset, Aquino had admitted that the 1,700-strong PDEA is undermanned, under-budgeted and under-equipped to handle exclusively the government's drug campaign.

Asked if the PDEA is doing a better job when it comes to the drug war, De Guia answered: "There were fewer reported deaths when PDEA was taking the lead in the campaign against drugs and it also highlights that RA 9165 really puts PDEA at the forefront of implementing RA 9165".

Since Duterte's anti-drug campaign began previous year, human rights watchdogs, such as Human Rights Watch, have put estimates of the number of people killed at as high as 12,000, though the police records indicate a much humbler figure of just 4,000.

Duterte had removed the police less than two months ago in response to rising opposition to the campaign. The drug enforcement agency has only a fraction of the manpower of the 190,000-strong police.

Aaron Aquino, an active police general who was appointed by Duterte in August to lead the PDEA, earlier conceded the agency will have difficulty curbing illegal drugs because it is undermanned.

Many Filipinos continue to support the crackdown and believe Duterte is making society safer. Duterte had slammed all his critics, saying they don't have the right to interfere in a domestic problem.

Suspected pushers and users were caught red-handed selling and using methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, and ecstasy, respectively, inside plush hotel rooms in Metro Manila, during a string of buy-bust operations and implementation of search warrants by the PDEA. The Philippines has a population of 101 million as of the 2015 survey.

Following the announcement, Duterte told human rights groups criticizing his deadly campaign to "go to hell". Another 2,290 have been murdered in drug-related crimes, while thousands of other deaths remain unsolved, according to government data.

Philippine police have been ordered by their president to rejoin the country's ongoing war on drugs.

Vanessa Coleman