The Golden Triangle region bordering Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar, and not China, is the top source of illegal drugs that enter the Philippines, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said Friday.
PDEA director general Aaron Aquino refuted the claim of Vice President Leni Robredo that most of the illegal drugs in the country are from China.
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“From 2017 and down, the illegal drugs came from China, and eventually, there had been a geographical shift to the Golden Triangle,” Aquino said.
Shabu, he added, was mistaken as coming from China because they were packed in Chinese teabags, he said.
“Because of their strict laws, China had implemented a crackdown against illegal drugs in 2017 or 2018, I think, and instead of manufacturing, they had just outsourced and smuggled drugs into our country,” he said.
Robredo, in her capacity as co-chairperson of the Interagency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs, said the police had informed her that China was the top supplier of illegal drugs and that most of the arrested drug traders were Chinese nationals or Filipino-Chinese.
Aquino said cocaine was entering the Philippines from Colombia and Peru, and ecstasy tablets came from the Netherlands and other European countries.
While the Philippine National Police said they have already controlled the operation of shabu laboratories, Aquino said: “it will never stop.”
Robredo on Friday gave members of the Interagency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs until December to gather, consolidate and submit baseline data on the real situation of the government’s war on drugs.
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“Our target is until the end of the year so we could be able to have a clear picture,” she said.
“So that is the first agreement—to finish the baselines since after a while, there is nothing yet [to use]. That is still not yet available,” she said.
The baseline data would include the number of arrested drug suspects, those who surrendered, those who went through rehabilitation and those who were charged, she added.
She said each agency-member of ICAD has its own data which would need to be consolidated.
“Just to gather, to harmonize and to vet would already take a lot of time. But I think it is really about time to come up with common baselines,” she said.
She cited the importance of the baseline data would provide a better picture of what has already been achieved, what works, and what does not work in the war on drugs.
Despite Robredo’s call for a new anti-drug program to replace Oplan Tokhang, top PNP officials said Friday the knock-and-plead initiative—which has gained notoriety because of several high-profile cases of human rights abuses—would continue.
Brig. Gen. Valeriano de Leon, chief of Police Regional Office in Central Visayas, said the PNP would continue with Oplan Tokhang until they receive a direct order from Robredo halting it.
“We have not received formal instruction from the PNP hierarchy for us to suspend its conduct,” De Leon told Malacañang reporters in a press briefing.
Robredo earlier said the anti-drug program has been equated with unnecessary killings.
The anti-drug czar on Thursday said the PNP welcomed her suggestion to rethink the Oplan Tokhang campaign, which now has a negative connotation for its association with the deaths of drug suspects allegedly at the hands of the police.
Under the guidelines, police personnel would visit only the houses of persons listed on the drugs watchlist.
They would be allowed to talk only with the house owners or drug suspects themselves outside the residence unless they are invited inside the house.
De Leon defended Oplan Tokhang, saying there is nothing wrong with the campaign.
“There’s nothing wrong with the Tokhang. We want to ensure that those who were in the list are no longer engaged in illegal drugs,” he told reporters.
In October 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the Oplan Tokhang, which is under the Project Double Barrel. Three months later, it resumed with new safeguards.
Double Barrel is the PNP’s anti-illegal drug campaign plan which has been implemented since 2016.
It laid down a two-pronged approach, including Oplan Tokhang and Project HVT (high-value target), which aims to go after local and international drug traffickers.
Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, expressed support for Robredo’s plan to use a public health approach in the government’s anti-drug campaign.
Such a policy, she said, will be more effective in ending not only the proliferation of illegal drugs but drug-related violence as well.
“Addiction is a health issue. Big-time drug pushing is a serious crime,” Hontiveros said.
On the demand side, she cited the need to push for the implementation of a barangay health and rehabilitation program.
“On the supply side, a modern, rights-based drug law enforcement which will focus on big drug lords and syndicates is needed. I look forward to the Vice President acting on these things,” she said.
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