The top cop in the Philippines, Director General Ronald dela Rosa, is considering the creation of a special Search Bloc even more potent than the Colombian version, which was organised in 1992 to bring down notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Dela Rosa issued the warning during a press conference on Monday (26 September) as part of intensified efforts to rid the Philippines of drugs. Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June, more than 3,500 people have died as part of the deadly crackdown on drugs.
As of 26 September, a total of 722,743 suspects had given themselves up to police, GMA News reported. Some 669,141 were drug users and 53,602 were pushers.
"You want me to confirm it? So the drug lords begin leaving this country? Go abroad," declared dela Rosa. "You drug lords, it's time to flee. I'll make an even stronger version of Colombia's Search Bloc."
After a prolonged manhunt for the infamous drug lord, Escobar was eventually killed in 1993 following a shoot-out with Search Bloc authorities.
The police chief has recently returned from a six-day trip to the Latin American nation and said his visit to Colombia gave him ideas on waging the war against drugs back home in the Philippines. "That was a very productive trip, very educational, and I have learned a lot of best practices," dela Rosa said.
He added that there are an estimated 3 million drug addicts in the Philippines. The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief noted that Colombia Search Bloc was able to disrupt trafficking to the US, Asia and Europe and acknowledged the rehabilitation of the thousands of addicts who had turned themselves in is the next major challenge facing authorities.
When asked how serious he was about setting up a Philippine version of the Search Bloc to tackle the drugs epidemic, dela Rosa replied: "Well, I wasn't supposed to say it because if I do, our plans might become ineffective. But since you asked, okay. That's part of it too."
Widely known as "Bato", which translates as "the Rock", dela Rosa is a key ally of Duterte and his meteoric rise has mirrored that of the president. In Philippines, dela Rosa went from a one-star general as chief of police in Davao to the highest-ranking police official.
"We trust each other, in a very long time association. He knows what I'm capable of doing and I know what he wants to be done," dela Rosa said earlier this month.
"So without saying any word we can communicate with each other, through mental telepathy," he added. "He's the best leader in the universe for me. He's a no-nonsense leader."