Law enforcement and drug authorities are shifting to high gear in the government’s anti-drug operations after President Rodrigo Duterte, citing “unlimited sources of information,” said drug users in the Philippines now totaled between seven and eight million.
The Philippine National Police said they would improve their campaign based on the President’s increased estimate of drug users
in Metro Manila.
At the same time, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said the recent recovery of cocaine packages in the country’s eastern seaboard was not new as authorities have recovered similar cocaine packages before.
PDEA Spokesperson Derrick Carreon made the comment following the recovery by the PNP of over P871 million worth of cocaine in different parts of the country’s eastern seaboard in the past two weeks.
“If we will recall, recoveries of cocaine were not new in the Philippines. We’ve had recoveries dating back to 2001. If you recall there was even a big one in 2009 when we spent months scouring the seas, again in the eastern seaboard, recovering what was reported to be a ton [of cocaine],” Carreon told a Camp Crame briefing.
The briefing was attended by some members of media.
But Carreon stressed the Philippines was just a “transshipment point” since it was not a known cocaine market, noting that 97 percent of drug users in the country accounted for “shabu” users.
Earlier, Duterte said the recovery of the cocaine bricks confirmed the presence of international drug syndicates
in the country.
“The news that you hear every day about the floating drugs all around the country is that really we have confirmed that Sinaloa and Medellin cartels are in the trade now. It has always been cocaine from Mexico,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang.
PNP Spokesman Sr. Supt. Bernard Banac, who said Duterte’s statement—made in a speech in Binan, Laguna last weekend—had basis, said they would focus their attention on going after illegal drug syndicates instead of drug users to “contain the supply side.”
Banac told the Crame briefing: “It [the statistics] remains to be verified but we’ll take it as a good decision-making tool.”
PDEA’s Carreon and National Bureau of Investigation Spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin, who were present at the briefing, said they would also abide by the President’s figure.
They said since the number of arrests and anti-drug operations had increased, this had led to more information on the whereabouts and identities of other users.
“Drug operations are improving. There are more arrests and the arrests will come [with] additional information…arrested addicts that provide information that’s why estimates increase,” Lavin said.
After a year in his post as chief executive, Duterte said there were about four million drug users in the country.
But then Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Benjamin Reyes instead abided by a figure of 1.8 million from research.
Duterte later fired Reyes for “contradicting” the government.
Banac maintained that police operations against illegal drugs had been “effective” despite the rise of the number of users.
He cited the recent national survey showing majority of Filipinos believed the number of drug addicts had decreased.
PDEA also reported that 170,689 drug personalities had been arrested from July 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2019.
Officials have also reported that 11,080 barangays have been declared “cleared” of illegal drugs out of more than 40,000.
Police said they had yet to clear 21,974 barangays from illegal drugs.
On the other hand, police data showed 5,176 drug personalities have died in anti-drug operations.
Only recently, the President vowed a “bloodier” drug war in the remaining three years of his term, which is until 2022, implying more arrests and deaths.
Banac gave assurances the PNP would uphold the rights of the public as they pursued efforts in the anti-drup campaign.
“We assure the public the PNP subscribes to the rule of law. All anti-drug operations are done with utmost respect for human rights and human life,” he said.
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But, as prescribed by law, the police have the right to use force to defend themselves should armed conflict arise, Banac clarified.
“We know that drug syndicates are well-armed, they will not allow themselves to be arrested or caught and put behind bars, and there is always that possibility that they would put a high level of risk against our law enforcers…If there is a risk of life and his [law enforcer’s] life is in danger then he has all the right to use the force necessary to contain the risk,” he explained.
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