Duterte: 2 million drug users in the Philippines
Despite designating the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as the sole agency to handle the campaign against illegal drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night expressed doubts that the agency can handle the situation.
"Some are insisting that there is no drug problem, fine, I agree with you. So the 2,000 members would be enough for the entire Philippines," he told a group of overseas Filipino workers and partner organizations of newly-launched Anti-Trafficking OFW Movement (ATOM) at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. 2,000 refers to PDEA's number of personnel in the entire country.
"You have been downgrading the drugs problem. Okay. I ordered the military and the police out of the picture. Lahat. Only PDEA," he added.
"Now, the question you will ask is, 'Would this be... Would this agency, a single one sufficient to meet the challenges of the drug problem? Would there be enough resources for this agency to deal with the problem effectively?' I don't know. I don't know because I myself has distanced."
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino previously said PDEA will need a budget of at least P5 billion and an additional 1,000 to 1,500 personnel each year, aside from additional equipment, in order to effectively combat illegal drugs. But he expressed confidence the agency can handle the drug problem.
PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption earlier expressed their own doubts about the PDEA's capacity as the lead agency in the war against drugs.
Duterte estimates that the latest number of drug addicts in the country, after some have surrendered, is at "mildly, about two million." He did not, however, cite his basis for the new figure.
During the election campaign, Duterte said there were 3 million drug users in the country, citing data from former PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago. That figure rose to 4 million soon after he became President.
The President also revealed during the same speech that the drug problem is the reason why he, along with some members of Congress, decided to suspend the barangay elections previously set on October 23, 2017.
"All of the mayors or the police are into it," he claimed. "Now, I'd like to tell you that 40 percent of the total barangay units in this country are contaminated with drugs. And there are about 9,000 plus law enforcers, policemen kasali diyan. That is why we suspended the elections."
He further explained, "The members of Congress went to me, senators and congressmen and asked me bluntly, 'What do you recommend?' 'No,' I said, 'No. I will not... That's your decision. I do not have any power at all to call off an elections except you.' I will just bare... you know, tell it all, bare all. The things that I know as President at sinabi ko sa kanila ganun."
"So we decided... They decided, government decided to suspend the election," he said.
Duterte also said he has a list of 40 mayors who are allegedly part of the illegal drug problem, with two of them Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, Sr. already killed.
He accused both Espinosa and Parojinog of killing their own policemen while running the drug trade in their own places.
"The economy of Ozamiz, walang pak --- But people were quite comfortable. It's a little bit higher than the other cities. Why? Because everybody was a merchant of drugs. And the supply was unlimited because it was the Mayor and he killed six policemen," he said.
"Until now, we only found two when the investigators and --- following the... when they started to dig the farms of the idiot, they found, among others, the two bones of… still in uniform, itong mga pulis. That's why I had to decide that he must go," he added, without elaborating on what "he must go" means.
He also said Espinosa even went as far as going to Davao City to seek the help of another mayor to ask for his protection.
"And as a matter of fact, a mayor of Albuera went to Davao City to another mayor just to ask for my protection because he could not get it from the police and from the other lead agencies. He did not trust the NBI, he did not trust the police," he claimed.
In the same speech, Duterte again defended policemen, saying he sympathizes with them when cases are filed against them.
"There were plenty of cases and policemen were shying away from enforcing the law because of the cases. It has been the practice in the Philippines and you can ask any lawyer for that matter. That the best way of defense is also to file a case against the police. True or not, because that will discourage him and eventually, will just refuse to appear in court," he said.
"But I do not stop policemen from killing criminals who pose a threat to their lives. Immediately, go for the head. Why go for the stomach and he can still shoot you? He can still... capable of squeezing the trigger twice. And you'll end up dead just like him," he added.