The status of the war on illegal drugs would not be so alarming and confusing if we had a fully functioning Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) capable of not only leading the fight against drug trafficking, but also of keeping the public regularly informed of developments.
Similarly, we need the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), our policy-making body for drug prevention and control, to be active in this fight and provide strategy in eradicating the menace.
As things stand now, the nation is in the dark about the illegal drug situation because neither PDEA nor the DDB is meeting its responsibilities. Both have receded to the background in the drug war, while the center of gravity has decisively shifted to Malacañang Palace and the Philippine National Police (PNP). It is President Rodrigo Duterte himself who provides updates on what is going on, while our drug officials conveniently lurk in the shadows.
The public is not so clear as to what is really our national drug policy, and what drugs or substances are truly proscribed in the country.
No one from those agencies has briefed our people about the true extent of the drug menace, and why the situation requires the government to wage an intensive war against the illegal drugs trade. No one is telling the public whether the illegal drugs are coming from abroad, or whether they are being manufactured within the country, or in what proportions.
It is the media and not the PDEA that maintains a sustained count of the number of people killed in the war on drugs or the number of those who have been arrested for drug offenses.
As provided for by law, PDEA is the lead anti-drug law enforcement agency, responsible for preventing, investigating and combating any dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals within the country. The agency is tasked with the enforcement of the penal and regulatory provisions of Republic Act No. 9165 (R.A. 9165), otherwise known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
Given this, we submit that it is the PDEA, and not President Duterte, who should be sounding the alarm about the illegal drugs situation in the country. It is the agency that should be conducting regular briefings on the progress of the war on drugs.
When it is suggested by some that the country is close to being a narco-state because of the involvement of public officials in the illegal drugs trade, we presume that this assessment comes mainly from intelligence gathered by our drug agency. And PDEA should be the most qualified body to tell us the real score.
PDEA and the Dangerous Drugs Board must earn their keep by doing their jobs.