By Chito Chavez
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has revealed a banner year for the country’s lead anti-illegal drugs arm with its achievement of reducing the drug supply and demand in 2018.
As the lead agency against illegal drugs, PDEA, in coordination with law enforcement agencies, conducted a total of 6,438 anti-drug operations, 386 of which were high-impact operations (HIOs) aimed at disrupting the source of dangerous drugs last year.
“This is 25 percent more than the operations conducted in 2017. The number of HIOs conducted also rose from 51 percent from 255 in 2017 to 386 in 2018,” said PDEA Director Aaron N. Aquino.
With PDEA’s intense operations, Aquino said some 5,513 drug personalities were arrested.
Of these numbers, Aquino said 1,612 were high-value targets (HVTs) consisting of 53 foreign nationals, 57 elected officials, 15 uniformed personnel, 43 government employees, 200 drug group leaders/members, 14 armed drug group members, 182 drug den maintainers, 10 wanted-listed, 146 target-listed, other HVTs numbering to 407 and 485 drug personalities.
For 2018, the total value of dangerous drugs seized amounted to P5.39 billion- a 16 percent increase compared to 2017.
Majority of the confiscated illegal drugs were methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, accounting for 655.47 kilos worth P4.86 billion.
Among the pieces of drug evidence confiscated during the period were 355 kilos, or P2.4 billion worth of shabu concealed inside two magnetic lifters that were intercepted at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) on August 7, 2018.
“For the same period, PDEA dismantled five clandestine laboratories and one chemical warehouse used in the manufacture of illegal drugs, an increase of 150 percent from 2017,” Aquino said.
Likewise, Aquino said 33 marijuana eradication operations were conducted in 2018, which paved the way for the eradication of 186 marijuana plantation sites, resulting in the destruction of 869,682 marijuana plants, 136,510 marijuana seedlings, 97.4 kilos of marijuana stalks, two kilos of marijuana seeds and two kilos of marijuana hashish worth over P201.16 million, an increase of 589 percent compared to 27 illegal hemp cultivation sites swept in 2017.
Aquino added “that increased in seizures of ecstasy tablets were also observed, with 16,713 tablets confiscated in 2018 compared to the 591 in 2017, an unprecedented increase of 2,728 percent’’.
The PDEA chief attributed the achievement to the enhanced capability of PDEA personnel to detect hidden illegal drugs, including the party drug, entering the country via mail and delivery services.
He noted that PDEA agents assigned in the airports and seaports have undergone x-ray cargo screening training conducted by the Office of the Transportation Security (OTS).
Clearing the barangays from illegal drugs
In line with the vision of President Duterte that all barangays should be drug cleared by 2022, PDEA intensified efforts to free barangays from the drug menace.
As the strategic framework of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), the implementation of the Barangay Drug-Clearing Program was strengthened resulting in the clearing of 9,503 drug-affected barangays since July 2016.
Aquino described the activation of Barangay Drug Abuse Councils (BADAC) as very crucial in the success of the implementation of the program.
In partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), PDEA conducted training-orientation to local government units (LGUs) all over the country on measures and indicators on declaring drug-cleared barangays.
Drug-demand reduction accomplishments
To complement the supply reduction strategy in eliminating illegal drugs in the country, the government also launched anti-drug advocacy and drug awareness programs, and rehabilitation of drug dependents.
“Reducing the demand for drug is particularly important since it discourages initiation of drug use, especially by children and adolescents,” Aquino said.
In 2018, PDEA, in partnership with other government institutions and private entities, conducted a total of 5,584,557 preventive education and community involvement activities such as lectures, seminars and symposiums to the different sectors of society, reaching an estimated audience of 25.84 million.
Rehabilitation, reintegration efforts
Recognizing that solving the drug problem entails a holistic approach, PDEA conceptualized a harm-reduction program named “Balay Silangan” to be implemented in every barangay.
Balay Silangan Reformation Program is designed for drug offenders to give up their former selves and enable them to be more productive and acceptable to society.
Balay Silangan was officially launched on April 25, 2018 with 21 reformation centers under the program being inaugurated.
Anti-drug advocacy for the youth
To protect the youth which are the most vulnerable sector to drug abuse, PDEA rolled out youth camps for the first time to promote drug awareness to the younger generation.
On July 6 to 8, 2018, youth camp was conducted at Amparo Nature’s Park, Caloocan City, and in Makiling Highlands Resort, Pansol, Laguna, the following month.
Strengthening PDEA’s logistical capabilities
Aquino has provided equipment to the agency’s operating units as the agency at the start of 2018 acquired a total of P537,531,720 worth in firepower, protective and surveillance equipment, the biggest in the agency’s history of procurement, to thrive well in the war on drugs.
Recognizing the need to augment its workforce to address the immense drug problem of the country, PDEA hired and trained drug enforcement officers (DEOs) in 2018.
Two batches of DEOs under DEO basic course classes 2018-13 and 2018-14, composed of 429 agent-trainees were recruited.
The second batch, composed of 161 agent-trainees, is currently undergoing the six-month training and is expected to graduate in February 2019. This is the largest recruitment of DEOs in the history of PDEA.
Strengthening K9 capabilities
Having been instrumental in averting trafficking of illegal drugs into the country, Aquino asserted that strengthening its K9 capabilities is one of the priorities of PDEA.
On September 8, 2018, PDEA opened the six-month basic K9 Handler’s Course Class 04-2018.
With 100 K9s and 100 K9 handlers, the batch has the highest number of K9 procured and handlers to be trained.
PDEA has also enhanced its K9 facility in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan based on international standards, with the end-in-view of turning it into “The Premier Narcotic Detection Dog Training Center”. Ground breaking ceremony for the facility was held on June 27, 2018.
Establishing AIUs, SIUs
To stop drug smuggling using vulnerable seaports and airports across the country, PDEA established three Airport Interdiction Units (AIUs), three International Airport Interagency Drug Interdiction Task Groups (IADITGs) and 12 Seaport Interdiction Units (SIUs) in its regional offices in 2018.
PDEA expanded its presence in the provinces by establishing provincial offices in 80 provinces and five districts in the National Capital Region (NCR). These offices are now fully operational.
Enhancing PDEA’s drug forensic capability
On June 1, 2018, PDEA inaugurated its new Laboratory Service building, regarded as “The Premier Drug Forensic Center,” located at the PDEA national headquarters in Quezon City.
The world-class facility has analytical equipment that are at par with those in other countries.
Aside from drug forensic examination and analysis, the laboratory was designed to enhance the safekeeping of seized drug evidence to preserve their integrity and evidentiary value prior their destruction by court order.
Strengthening morale of PDEA operatives
In 2018, Aquino said deserving PDEA operating units received a total cash rewards amounting to P20,245,438.84 under PDEA operation: “Lawmen,” an incentive program for law enforcers or members of the anti-illegal drug units/teams or task forces, including the support unit/s, after the conduct of laudable anti-drug operations.
“After performing significant anti-drug operations and putting all the hard work, deserving drug law enforcement units must enjoy the fruits of their labor. It is about time that the reward system was institutionalized as motivation for exemplary lawmen to go the extra mile,” Aquino pointed out.
“2018 is certainly a banner year for the national anti-drug campaign. The investments of our time, effort and resources in both drug supply and drug demand reduction initiatives are paying off. Capability enhancement programs were done with consistency in order to sustain the momentum we have gained. The revitalized interagency coordination and collaboration, the active participation of the various sectors of society, and the strengthened foreign ties, have made all these achievements possible,” Aquino said.
Aquino vowed that “PDEA will be even more relentless in its actions to achieve the drug-free Philippines vision of the President.”