MANILA — The war on drugs will continue under the helm of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., according to government agency heads who are leading the campaign.
The Marcos administration’s war against drugs, however, will give more emphasis on the rehabilitation and reformation of drug users and pushers, with village officials taking the lead, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) officials said.
“We believe that the frontlines on the war against drugs, nasa barangay. So ang resources dapat, andodoon eh,” DILG Undersecretary Oscar Valenzuela told the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs Tuesday.
“Giving them second chance not only for drug users, pero dapat meron din tayong second chance for drug pushers to have second chance. Eto naman yung mga dagang-dingding eh sa kalsada,” PDEA Director-General Wilkins Villanueva said.
Still, Sen. Raffy Tulfo was quick to remind agency officials not to repeat “Oplan: Tokhang,” wherein some self-confessed drug users were allegedly killed after surrendering.
“Kusang mga adik, pumupunta sa barangay para magpalista. Adik po ako. Ano’ng nangyari? O sige adik ka, kunin pangalan. Mario, Juan, Pedro, sige uwi na kayo, magpakabait na kayo. Sa tingin nyo yung mga umuwi nagpakabait? Hindi nagpakabait 'yun, kasi nga adik nga eh. In the end they are being salvaged. Kasi nga umulit pa,” Tulfo told reporters.
Data presented by PDEA before the committee reported that there are 9,693 drug-affected villages in the country, out of the 42,046 barangays in the Philippines.
PDEA said 25,802 villages were “cleared” of drugs; 5,811 are “drug-free” and 740 barangays are “drug-unaffected.”
Villanueva said intercepting illegal drugs these days is getting more difficult because syndicates now use the seas to transport illegal contraband.
“Susundin ng bangka sa gitna, ibabagsak sa gitna at may taga-hila, yung winch. Kaya yung operatiba na nagbabantay sa aplaya, walang makikitang bangka. Pero merong humihila na winch. Yung mga iligal na droga, tuluy-tuloy sa aplaya, walang bangka,” Villanueva said.
For Sen. Robin Padilla, shipping of illegal drugs will not happen without the blessing of local officials.
“Isa rin pong masakit po na katotohanan meron po talagang mga involved na LGU (local government unit) 'yan di naman po yan makakalanding sa dagat o kaht san kung wala pong involved na local government,” Padilla said.
To arrest the problem, officials asked for Senate’s help to ensure a stricter guarding of the country’s territorial waters.
The PDEA is now also looking at the bank accounts of certain individuals suspected to be financing illegal drugs.
“As of now we have more than 100 financial investigation agents deputized by the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) na motu propio kaya na naming mag-investigate financially on those persons that we arrest na meron kaming financial evidence transactions. We have 118 ongoing investigation and we have 109 targets,” Villanueva said.
For PNP chief General Rodoldo Azurin, Jr., the Duterte administration was able to create awareness about the extent of illegal drug problem in the country, but efforts to curb it fell short.
“Ang isyu dyan how do we prevent yang pagpasok ng droga... by air and by sea. Kung sinasabi natin na wala nang laboratory sa Pilipinas, we need to revisit yung mga nakukumpiska natin na napakaraming droga lately. We need the cooperation of our enforcers sa different sea assets like Navy, Coast Guard,” Azurin said.
“There should be an inter-agency cooperation on war on drugs para nape-prevent entry… if we have the control, then we ca have the interdiction,” he added.
PDEA meanwhile registered its support to reimposing death penalty in the country, which should cover even government officials, and those who would be convicted of selling a minimum of 10 kilos of illegal drugs.
The agency also proposes to require Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets to take part in the government’s war against drugs.
“Why not turuan natin on the advocacy tapos magturo sila sa different schools naka-ROTC uniform sila,” Villanueva told panel chairman Senator Ronald dela Rosa.
“We can train them (ROTC cadets), we can empower them. So instead na magbilad-bilad sila dyan sa araw, maging (anti-)drug advocate sila. Kahit sa university lang sila magturo as part of their curriculum nila. Drug abuse prevention education,” Villanueva added.
The agency also supports the proposed bill that would legalize the use of marijuana or cannabis for medical purposes.