Reuters  reported that the Philippines National Police will now be focusing on arresting people involved in the drug trade instead of extrajudicial killings. On August 18th 2016, the UN urged the government of the Philippines to end the extrajudicial killings, however, President Duterte responded by calling President Obama, the European Union, and the United Nations “fools.”

President Duterte has compared himself to Hitler and since his short time in office approximately 2300 to over 3600 people have been killed by police. The government authorized the killings and it is Duterte’s attempt to prevent his country from being a “Narco State.” In the Reuters article, it mentions the police will now be focusing on celebrity and high value targets instead of the predominantly poor. This shift is likely an attempt to remain in favor with the poorer population, since the “war on drugs” has also been called a “war on the poor.”

Signalling a shift in strategy in its blood-soaked war against drugs, Philippines police aim to reduce the killing of suspects and put more resources into arresting prominent people tied to the trade, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Project Double Barrel Alpha will put a stronger focus on arresting politicians, military, police, government officials and celebrities allegedly involved in narcotics, the sources said.

The new approach will be outlined on Tuesday at a meeting of police chiefs from each of the Philippines’ 18 regions at Camp Crame, the police headquarters north of the capital Manila, Philippines National Police spokesman Dionardo Carlos confirmed to Reuters.

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The operation will be launched within days, Carlos said, adding he did not have further details of the new operation.

“We will give emphasis [to] arrests rather than neutralisation,” said one of the sources.- Reuters

Besides focusing on high value targets, police will also allegedly be working with local governments to certify neighborhoods drug-free and encourage rehabilitation.

Another element of Project Double Barrel Alpha, was what one source described as a “Barangay Clearing Operation”, where police will work more closely with local authorities and residents to “systematically” rid neighbourhoods of drugs and place more emphasis on rehabilitation.

About 27 percent of barangays – the more than 42,000 districts or villages that comprise the lowest tier of government in the Philippines – were deemed drug-affected as of September 2016, according to police and anti-narcotics enforcement data.

Once community leaders declare an area drug-free, the chief of police will certify it as such.- Reuters

I read the Reuters article with a great deal of skepticism. The seemingly new kindler and gentler Philippines government could be an attempt to appease global audience but it is unlikely due to President Duterte’s recent comments against the US and UN. Foreign policy between the US and Philippines has been on thin ice since the US has criticized the extrajudicial killings and will likely not change in the short-term.

Image courtesy of Reuters