THE current administration’s massive campaign against the illegal drugs trade has law enforcement agencies and local government units (LGU) up and running in keeping with what many thought to be an overly-ambitious campaign promise.
Reports from state prosecutors, police, and other concerned government agencies show signs of vitality on their part in response to the said campaign while human rights advocates raise alarm over the spate of alleged extra-judicial killings of drug suspects.
Increased conviction rates
For one, Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd of the Department of Justice (DOJ) has said state prosecutors are currently facing a dramatically increased number of cases in light of the series of surrenders and arrests of drug suspects.
Aguirre maintained that the mounting number of illegal drugs-related cases being prosecuted is an early manifestation of the Duterte administration’s success in its campaign against the illegal drugs trade.
“I will consider the Duterte anti-drug campaign a success, 700,000 have surrendered, pushers are being caught, the crime rate is down and the people feel safer,” he said.
The justice secretary confirmed that more drug-related cases have been filed in court this year compared to past years and past administrations.
Aguirre also underlined that state prosecutors have been successful in securing the conviction of high-profile drug peddlers.
He mentioned that conviction of those behind the operations of a drug laboratory in Subic, considered as the largest drug bust in the history of the country which led to the confiscation of around 400 kilograms of metamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
“As to the conviction rate under the Duterte administration, I am proud to say that our Region 3 prosecutors have secured conviction in Subic of one of the largest drug arrest in the history, more than 400- kilos of shabu (were seized),”Aguirre said.
The justice secretary, meanwhile, appealed for more time from the public as he promised that the conviction rates of drug-related cases would continue to increase.
“Give us time and we will to seek more conviction,” Aguirre said.
Prosecution of high-profile peddlers
Among the accomplishments that the DOJ has reported is the indictment of four Chinesewho were arrested in a “floating” shabu laboratory off the coast of Subic, Zambales on July 11.
The DOJ subsequently found probable cause for the filing of criminal charges for manufacture and illegal possession of dangerous drugs against Win Fai Lo, Shu Fook Leung, Kam Wah Kwok and Kwok Tung Chan. This led the filing of criminal charges against them before the Regional Trial Court of Olongapo City.
A total of 467.8 grams of shabu were seized from the Chinese. A seized hyrdogenator, a crucial equipment for making shabu, led to the DOJ’s findingthat the Chinese had been manufacturing dangerous drugs on board their boat.
The DOJ, meanwhile,reported that it has ordered the filing of criminal charges against Maguindanao Vice Mayor Abdulwahab Sabal and three others for illegal possession of firearms, explosives and illegal drugs.
The justice department indicted Sabal, his wife Mohanna, bodyguard Nasser Maulana and driver Norodin Abas.
Sabal and his co-respondents were nabbed at the Awang Airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on September 8. The Philippine National Police (PNP) were able to seize from the group an improvised explosive device composed of a 60mm mortar round with batteries and cellular phones attached, two hand grenades, an M16 rifle, and a .45-caliber revolver.
A total of 12 sachets with over 72 grams of shabu were also seized from Mohanna’s bag. For this, the DOJ recommended the filing of criminal charges for possession of illegal drugs against her.
The DOJ has also filed charges against the alleged cohorts of suspected bigtime Chinese drug lord Mico Tan for possession of illegal drugs in Valenzuela City.
In a resolution dated July 25, the DOJ found probable cause to file criminal charges against Yinglie Xu a.k.a.“Henry Co”, Xiong Bo He a.k.a.“Jerry”, Xiao Zhen He, Hao He, and Xu Yingmei a.k.a.“Bea Payas” for violation of Section 11, Article 2 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
Mico Tan, who was on board a white sedan, tried to escape during his apprehension. During the chase, Tan was slain. Tan’s group is allegedly involved in the manufacture and distribution of shabuin Metro Manila.
In justifying the massive campaign against the illegal drugs trade, the Duterte administration has cited figures pertaining to the number of drug dependents in the country, underlining that the country’s drug problem is more pervasive than previously assumed.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), for one,cited that out of 42,065 barangay in the country, 20.51 percent are considered drug-affected.
PDEA said that the percentage represents a total of 8,629 barangays which have drug-related issues. The consolidated data were gathered from the reports of PDEA operating units and other law enforcement agencies.
A barangay is said to be drug-affected when there is a determined existence of a drug user, pusher, manufacturer, marijuana cultivator or other drug personality.
PDEA identified three parameters in determining a barangay drug-affectation: slightly affected, moderately affected, and seriously affected.
A barangay is considered slightly affected if there are identified drug users in the community but no known drug pushers or traffickers are operating in the area; moderately affected if at least one suspected drug pusher or trafficker is operating in the barangay; and seriously affected if at least one drug laboratory, den, dive or resort is suspected to exist in the community.
The National Capital Region has the highest rate of affectation with 92.10 percent of the region’s barangays affected, followed by Region 4A (Calabarzon) at 33.78 percent.
The Dangerous Drug Board (DDB), meanwhile, pegs the number of lifetime drug users (triers/out of curiosity) at 4,754,249 (aged 10-69). Out of this number are 1.8 million current users (habitual/addicted), representing 2.3 of the country’s total population.
Research by the DDB also noted that drug usage is more extensive among adults than children or the elderly. Most of these adults are males who are employed in industries involving “construction, extraction and maintenance”at 4.4 percent and “production, transportation and material moving” at 3.3 percent.
Visayas registers the highest prevalence rate while South Luzon registered the lowest prevalence rate.
The DDB also found out that while shabu may be the most popular drug in the market, marijuana registers higher lifetime usage.
Profiling for policy
Secretary Benjamin Reyes, chairperson of the DDB, said these figures have some implications on DDB’s policies and plans.
“So we have a balance approach while putting the system to the community or barangay level to address drug addiction problem,” Reyes said.
Reyes said concentration of efforts at the barangay level is needed because current users can easily be identified by local officials of the community.
He cited a DDB studywhich showed that among the population of current users who are living with parents, 28 percent was found to be living with only one parent. Among those who were surveyed to be living with only one parent, 10 percent said that their parents are separated.
Reyes, meanwhile, noted that 2.6 percent of 5,000 households surveyed has members who are drug users.
Among those who confirmed that they have a family member who is using drugs, about half stated that the said family member was influenced by close friends to take drugs (“nababarkada”).
Reyes cited that most of the actions undertaken by these households consisted of giving advice to the drug-user or confronting him/her to desist from the vice. However, four out of ten of these households professed that they would rather have nothing to do with the drug user or have no idea at all how to address the concern.
Agencies against drugs
Reyes, meanwhile, said the DDB needs to tie up with other government agencies for efforts to curb drug dependence and usage to succeed.
The DDB study suggested that a campaign to inform drug dependents or users on the available facilities that could help them rid themselves of the habit will be a big help.
Part of this campaign is encouragingdrug dependents to seek medical advice freely and openly.
The DDB has underlined the pivotal role of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in putting to task barangay officials, including civic organizations in partnership with the department, in rekindling volunteerism amid the campaign against illegal drugs.
In line with this, the DILG is set to launch on September 28 its Mamamayang Ayaw sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw sa Iligal na Droga(MASA-MASID) program. DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno has said that the said program can significantly improve the government’s unified campaign against criminality, corruption, and illegal drugs.
Suenocalled on the public to volunteer for the program during a recent meeting with representatives of various people’s organizations at the DILG Central Office.
“Sama kayo sa amin sa MASA-MASID [join us in MASA-MASID]. Ito ay parang umbrella organization ng lahat ng organization sa barangay at volunteers’ groups para ma-eliminate natin iyong droga, korapsyon at kriminalidad [This is like an umbrella organization of all organizations in barangays and volunteer groups working for the elimination of the illegal drugs trade, corruption, and criminality],” Sueno said.
He added, “Not only will the government’s peace and order efforts be strengthened; even the barangay units, as well as the national government’s unified efforts against irregularity, criminality and drugs can be sustained.”
Its apparent doggedness in the campaign against drugs would have normally earned the government – traditionally chastised for the lack of political will of its officials in carrying out policies – praise from most quarters if not for the shadow cast by the current spate of alleged extra-judicial killings of drug suspects.
Human rights groups, both local and international, have condemned the alleged extra-judicial killings but President Rodrigo Duterte has shrugged off criticisms and vowed to press on with the campaign, which includes police carrying out door-to-door searches.
From July 1 to September 4, 1,894 persons have died in what are believed to be drug-related killings, including vigilante-style executions whose victims – oftenwrapped in tape with placards proclaiming their alleged crimes – are dumped on the streets of urban centers and drive-by shootings by motorcycle-riding gunmen, PNP public information chief Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos reported.
As of 6 a.m. of September 12, 1,487 drug suspects have been killed since July 1, 2016, according to the PNP’s National Operation Center (NOC).
Metro Manila has the highest drug operation death toll with 221 killed. Out of those killed, 214 are civilians while six are policemen. This is followed by Central Luzon with 204 drug suspects and two policemen killed.
PNP-NOCreported that the Southern Tagalog Region came in next with 89 drug suspects and one policeman killed.
This was followed by the Central Visayas Region with a total of 79 drugs suspects killed. Following Central Visayas are SOCCKSKARGEN (51), Bicol Region (34), Ilocos Region (30), Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (30), Western Mindanao (29), Eastern Visayas (25), Northern Mindanao (16), Negros Island (15), Western Visayas (9), Cagayan Valley (9), Cordillera Administrative Region (7), and Mimaropa (3).
The police figures said that the Southern Tagalog Region has the most number of drug suspects arrested with a total of 2,025 arrests followed by Central Luzon (1,732), and Metro Manila (1,947).
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, responding to criticisms, has said that he did not order his men to kill drug suspects.
“I have to make sure that my men are always alive after every encounter. I must see to it that they are all alive but it doesn’t mean you have to kill all the suspects. That is not my order,” Dela Rosa earlier told reporters.
“My order is to arrest the suspects based on police operational procedures and we have to respect the rule of law always, all the time. That’s what we are here for but, on the other hand, I want my men to be safe and secured during police operations,” he said.