What’s the best way to wage the war on drugs? » Manila Bulletin News

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Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

By Atty. Joey D. Lina

Former Senator

 

President Duterte’s recent pronouncement that he’s inclined to again allow the Philippine National Police to go after those into illegal drugs has renewed fears of abusive cops going on a rampage and “a return to the horrors of extrajudicial killings.”

“Whether I like it or not, I have to return that power to the police,” the President said in a speech at the Special Forces Regiment Command in Nueva Ecija on Nov. 22, as he expressed apprehension over “increased shabu activity” since Oct. 10 when the PNP was ordered to stay away from the drug war.

Saying there is a “very strong likelihood” the PNP will have full control anew over anti-drug operations, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Mr.Duterte is not content with intensified efforts of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the “sole agency” to fight the menace of illegal drugs. “He must not be satisfied, he wants more,”Roque pointed out.

The President’s dissatisfaction was made known even as PDEA announced that its “high impact and quality” drug campaign focused on high-value targets from Oct. 10 to Nov. 10 consisted of 1,341 operations that yielded P53.63 million worth of illegal drugs and led to 404arrests.

“This is 80.5 percent more than the operations conducted in the previous month,” PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said. “We may be undermanned, underequipped and underfunded, but we continually strive to achieve more than what is expected.”

Although PDEA deserves praise for trying to do its utmost in tackling the gargantuan challenges it is faced with, the President cannot be blamed if he thinks the achievements of the sole agency tasked to lick the drug menace are still not enough, given the enormity of the problem with drug addicts and pushers that he believes total about 4 million nationwide.

For one who was catapulted to power on a campaign promise to rid the country of the drug menace, it is understandable why President Duterte, intent as he is in pursuing his commitment, has made the drug war a top priority of his administration. Thus, a slowdown on what ought to be ferocious and relentless efforts to combat the proliferation of illegal drugs can be undesirable indeed.

But so can be the setbacks attributed to rogue cops who have made a mockery of honest-to-goodness efforts of the PNP while at the forefront of the all-out war against the well-entrenched multi-billion pesoillegal drugs industry.

With unabated police abuses and scalawags on a rampage – the primary reason why the law was enacted to create PDEA and stop police misfits – calling off the PNP from the drug campaign twice this year were wise decisions made at a time when killings associated with the drug war have caused so much international embarrassment, with the image of the PNP taking a beating worldwide especially after the murders of a Korean businessman right inside Camp Crame and that of minors like Kiandelos Santos.

But without the PNP, it certainly seems impossible for PDEA – with its total manpower now numbering only 1,898 personnel – to effectively function as sole agency fighting the enormous drug problem nationwide.

Yet, many ask: How couldthe PNP truly succeedin the drug war when the President him self has said he believes that “40 percent” of PNP members are “corrupt to the core?” And can there be more effective strategies to fight the drug war and attain lasting success?

Answers to these questions could be found in RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002which mandates that PDEA “shall be the lead agency” and that “the NBI, PNP and the Bureau of Customs shall maintain close coordination with the PDEA on all drug related matters.”

The law states that PDEA serves as the implementing arm of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and, as such, PDEA shall “implement or cause the efficient and effective implementation of the national drug control strategy formulated by the Board [DDB] thereby carrying out a national drug campaign program which shall include drug law enforcement, control and prevention campaign with the assistance of concerned government agencies.”

Thus, when the PNP becomes actively involved in the drug war again, it ought to be working under PDEA and implementing a strategy made by DDB, in accordance with the spirit and letter of RA 9165.

Section 77, Article 9 of the law provides that DDB “shall be the policy-making and strategy-formulating body in the planning and formulation of policies and programs on drug prevention and control.” As such, DDB is really the overall leader in the drug war, instead of PNP as what many thought happened previously when police seemed to have their own operation plans that were not DDB-approved.

With such setup provided under the law – PDEA as DDB’s implementing arm and lead agency in the drug war,with the PNP merely assisting – many believe that police abuses would be minimized, if not totally eradicated.

The DDB is a high-powered organization composed of l7 members, nine of whom belong to President Duterte’s Cabinet – the secretaries of the Departments of Justice, Health, National Defense, Finance, Labor and Employment, Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development, Foreign Affairs, and Education. Other members are the heads of the Commission on Higher Education and National Youth Commission, director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and national president of the Philippine Association of Social Workers Inc.

With such brilliant minds in the DDB, many believe that inherent flaws and serious mistakes that have plagued the current drug campaign could have been avoided if only policies and strategies were made to undergo extensive scrutiny and planning by the DDB.

The various executive departments could have contributed greatly in coming up with policies and strategies. DOLE, for instance, could come up with a livelihood strategy for addicts and pushers to rebuild their lives. DOJ could come up with ways to improve prosecution and speed up cases, DILG could find ways to have more jails and get more LGUs to be more active in the drug campaign, DepEd could intensify efforts to steer the youth away from drugs, DOH could come up with more rehab centers or even asylums for the criminally insane for those beyond recovery because, as President explains repeatedly, their brains have shrunk due to extensive use of shabu.

In other words, fully implementing RA 9165 is the key to a “comprehensive, integrated, unified and balanced national drug use prevention and control strategy” that would spell success in the current drug war and make our President a very happy man.

 

E-mail:finding.lina@yahoo.com

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