DRUG users in the Philippines start as early as age 10, and they are included in the 1.8-million users and 4.8-million lifetime users of illegal drugs, with shabu being the most popular drug being abused globally, the Dangerous Drugs Board says in a report.
And as of Aug. 23, 2016, there were 1,194 HIV-positive illegal-drug users in the country, the report says.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, on Wednesday expressed alarm over the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s report that six-year-old children are now being used by drug syndicates to sell drugs, and that they were among the 982 children arrested during the Philippine National Police’s ongoing campaign against illegal drugs.
Citing the PDEA report, Barbers said the use of minors in drug-related activities rose from one in 2006 to 982 in 2016.
The report also says the Philippines is being used as a transshipment point by the drug cartels in Africa, China, Mexico and The Netherlands.
“The worldwide money-laundering amounts to $1.6 trillion a year of which $580 billion is laundered from the drug proceeds, which represent one percent of the global GDP or gross domestic product,” the PDEA report says.
“Shabu dominates the global market and continues to expand in East and Southeast Asia,” said retired PDEA chief Isidro Lapena.
“Globally, there are 33.9-million meth users while there are 9.1- million meth users in East and Southeast Asia. The new route observed is methamphetamine from Africa and Mexico to the Philippines.”
A joint investigation of PDEA and the Anti-Money Laundering Council since 2009, involving 24 personalities, three bank accounts and four foreign exchange institutions, showed that the proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs deposited in one account totaled P70 billion in three years.
“The PDEA report shows that drug pushers are now tapping minor children in the sale, distribution or procurement of shabu and other illegal drugs. It is very alarming,” Barbers said.
During a briefing conducted by Lapena before Barbers’ panel, Lapena said a total of 982 minors had been arrested for involvement in illegal drugs from January 2006 to August 2016.
PDEA indicated that in 2006, there was only one recorded apprehension of a minor in connection with illegal drugs, one also in 2007, none in 2008 and one in 2009.
But from 2010 and onwards, the minor children’s involvement in illegal drugs indicated a sharp rise. The PDEA figures indicated that there were seven arrests of minors in drug-related activities, 18 in 2012, 51 in 2013, 157 in 2014, 278 in 2015 and 464 in 2016.
“We could only surmise that drug traffickers and users use these minors to sell, procure or distribute drugs because the police have no powers to arrest, detain and prosecute them under Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006,” Barbers said.
The drug users’ profiles show that 53.2 percent were unemployed, while some 28.34 percent had finished college and had an average monthly income of P10,172.
Most of the drug users come from the National Capital Region at 43.89 percent. They are “poly drug users” or abuse more than one drug.
As of Aug. 23, 2016, the DDB said, some 673,978 users and pushers had surrendered to authorities, some 11,571 were under the watchlist and 34,228 were “newly identified.”
Citing police data, Barbers said 11,321 out of the 42,036 barangays nationwide were drug-affected.