Outgoing military chief Eduardo Año said Friday he would apply the rule of law in a campaign against drug syndicates when he takes over the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Año made the pledge as President Duterte personally set June 2 for the DILG to be turned over to the 55-year-old Año who reaches the military retirement age of 56 in October.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he tried on Thursday to persuade Mr. Duterte to extend Año’s tour in the military but the President rejected the idea.
“(The President) said ‘No, no, no, no. Let’s have the turnover by June 2,’” Lorenzana quoted Mr. Duterte as saying.
When told of the President’s remarks at the closing of the Philippine-US “Balikatan” exercise at Camp Aguinaldo, Año said he was still awaiting official instructions.
“I have not received an official order. I will just have to prepare,” he said, conceding that Mr. Duterte might be in a hurry to have him transferred because the DILG is a big agency.
“The DILG is big. It has big responsibilities. Because the DILG plays a big role in (Mr. Duterte’s) program, he needs a permanent and regular secretary to take over immediately,” Año said.
But the general, who spent most of his military career as an intelligence officer, said he understood the challenges he is facing.
“I believe I have enough knowledge and information on how to run the team in the DILG. There is already an existing team in the DILG. I will just be joining the team,” he said.
He also recognized that one of the problems in the war against drugs was the local and international criticism it had been getting.
Año said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency would lead the antidrug campaign with the support of the Philippine National Police.
“We’ll find many ways to defeat the (drug menace) using and following the rule of law,” Año said, adding that the PNP should retool its image.
“It’s very important that the image of the PNP should be morally high so that we can get the cooperation of the public,” he said.
From users to syndicates
Año said he would also shift the focus from street dealers and users to drug syndicates.
“What we will do is really focus on the drug syndicates that supply these drugs to the communities. You really need to go to the source,” Año said.
“It’s like the insurgency. We have to address the root causes. It is also the same in the war on drugs. We will work together on that. We will make a good holistic approach on the war on drugs,” he added.
Asked about the transition at the Armed Forces, Año said the Board of Generals has yet to submit to the President the names of his possible successor.
“We will recommend at least three names and then the President will decide who is the possible successor as the next Chief of Staff,” he added.
However, his early retirement should not have a bad effect on the AFP’s plans and programs.
“They’re not centered on one personality,” he said.
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