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'Drug menace also nat'l security threat'

The narcotics  problem in the Philippines will  worsen even more,  becoming a threat to national security, unless the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte gets rid of public officials and law enforcers  who are protecting drug syndicates.

This was the warning expressed by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Isidro Lapeña at a forum  in Quezon City, stressing  that  international drug syndicates are operating in the country in cahoots with government officials, making it easy for them to smuggle  illegal substances in various seaports and airports.

Lapeña  said that  methamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu,  marijuana and party drug Ecstasy are the top three narcotics distributed in the streets and these prohibited substances are manufactured by Chinese, Taiwanese and Mexican drug syndicates.

PDEA director general Isidro Lapeña
Earlier last week at the Asean summit, President Rodrigo Duterte warned Southeast Asian leaders not to take  the drug menace lightly.

President Duterte recently revealed that 40 percent of barangay officials were linked to illegal drugs, emphasizing the extent of the problem.

Lapeña said PDEA is closely coordinating with other law enforcement agencies such as the National Bureau of Investigation, National Police, and the Armed Forces, and the Office of the President  their combined efforts to go after  a number of state officials protecting and financing the drug trade.

“We have the names but we can’t divulge it right now. We are working on it,” he said.   

The PDEA chief said that the country’s drug problem can now be classified as national security threat. 

In a study conducted by Philippine Center on Transnational Crime during the time of then President Joseph Estrada, it revealed that “the underworld has virtually taken a new role in the geopolitical order with the establishment of a semi-ideological institution known as Narcocracy, which replaced communism as the new threat to democracy and to the political, social, economic and military security of individual states.  

It stated that this institution has subtly invaded almost all countries of the world and is now actively participating in running the economic and political affairs of some states to the extent of dictating courses of action of governments or worst, monopolizing the administration of government. 

“Narcocracy has established an underground empire which has more power, wealth and status than many nations. It flies no flag on the terrace of the United Nations, but it has larger armies, more capable intelligence agencies, more influential diplomatic services than many countries do.” 

“It relies solely on underground capitalism with profit as its primary orientation and drugs as the main subject of commerce. Its strategy is bribery directed against those occupying sensitive positions in government or participating in political exercises by shouldering the bulk of the financial requirements of political parties. Its social activity is giving off dole outs in the form of money with the end in view of influencing decision making or exerting pressure on concerned personalities to further their interests,” the PCTC paper said.

The PCTC also stated that the political system of the country including law enforcement is power and not service-oriented making professionalization difficult to introduce. 

“Politicians and other government employees see themselves as masters and not servants of the people, a situation which is an open prey to graft and corruption. Enrichment in office is a primary motivation as manifested by the assets and liabilities of members of Congress as published in newspapers. This political environment aggravated by a meager salary is exploited by drug lords who have in their possession huge amount of money generated from the drug trade. Only professional public servants would reject the offer but many would sacrifice public service with self-interest,” it added. 

“... Apart from these are more shocking news that the Philippines is being utilized as a transshipment point of drugs by transnational criminal organizations, that government officials are involved in the drug trade, that shabu laboratories are operating in the Philippines, and that shabu are being sold in ordinary stores like any other commodity.” 

The PTCT   revealed that the banking system of the Philippines provides a very safe haven for proceeds from the drug trade. 

“Philippine banks are among the most secretive in the world similar to Switzerland, Austria, Japan, Monaco, Cyprus, and The Netherlands Antilles but is not as secretive as Austria which allows anonymous bank accounts. 

“Philippine banks are not required to report suspicious currency transaction and may divulge bank accounts only upon lawful orders of the courts. Laws on the transport of Philippine currency are also very lenient. Thus, transnational criminal organizations take advantage of this banking environment because their funds will be definitely out of reach by law enforcement and BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue] authorities.”

The authorities vowed that the government’s crackdown on drug dealing in the country will continue with the goal of catching protectors and financiers of the illegal drug trade.

The Philippine government also signed an agreement with the Chinese government to solve the alleged drug supply coming from the mainland.

Police records showed that around 65,000 suspected drug dealers were arrested during joint operations of law enforcement agencies from July 1, 2016 to April 20, 2017.

Law enforcers conducted 53,503 anti-drug operations which resulted in the arrest of the drug suspects. The operations also yielded 1,266,966 persons who surrendered while 2,692 drug suspects died in police operations.

But observers said the suspects arrested are mostly poor drug dependents or small-time street dealers. 

Police chief Ronald dela Rosa assured the public that the PNP will continue the campaign against drugs, adding that they will utilize all available resources to finally eradicate crime and illegal drugs in the country.

Militant group Anakbayan, however, said the war on drugs campaign initiated by President Duterte is useless as long as there are government and police officials protecting the drug trade. 

The group also decried the killings of suspected pushers during police anti-drug operations, saying these acts will not stop the drug problem. 

“The extrajudicial killings may prove detrimental to the anti-drug drive as drug lords and corrupt officials scramble to silence drug dealers in the lower rungs of syndicates to cover their tracks,” it stated.

Just recently, President Duterte issued an Executive Order creating the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs aimed to address the drug problem in the country. He said the inter-agency will also address the present gaps and issues encountered by various agencies mandated to implement anti-drug laws and policies.

The EO states that it is the priority of the government to suppress the drug problem in the country by the manufacturers, traffickers and peddlers of illegal drugs putting behind bars and by transforming drug users into productive members of society through, among others, balanced and integrated approaches of supply and demand reduction strategies under the Barangay Drug Clearing Program.

Topics: Drug menace , narcotics , national security threat , Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency , PDEA director general Isidro Lapeña
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