Gov’t survey on national drug use ongoing: PDEA

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    THE government has started a survey to determine the number of users and pushers in the country, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino said yesterday.

    Aquino, in a briefing in Malacañang, said the survey being conducted by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) started in August and will “hopefully come out in the first quarter of 2020.”

    Aquino said one of the observations made by Vice President Leni Robredo when she was still co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) was that the government lacks a scientific baseline data for the number of users and pushers.

    Aquino said Robredo had recommended the need to establish such baseline data, especially with the government using a “less accurate” data in the current campaign against illegal drugs.

    He said he had no problems with the recommendations made by the Vice President, especially the good ones, and had even asked ICAD member-agencies to submit a compliance report to the recommendations by January next year.

    “For example, nakita niya iyong baseline, there’s no baseline of drug users and drug pushers. You would know na it started with 1.8 million in I think, 2015 or 2016, and then itong 2017 or 2018, naging four million drug users. So parang walang clear na baseline doon (For example, if you see the baseline, there’s no baseline of drug users and drug pushers. You would know that it started with 1.8 million in 2015 or 2016 and then in 2017 or 2018, it became four million drug users. So there is no clear baseline there),” he added.

    President Duterte, since assuming the presidency, had claimed that the number of Filipino drug users had now reached millions.

    Records from PDEA covering the period of July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2019, showed that 151,601 anti-drug operations had been conducted by the agency which resulted in the arrest of 220,728 drug personalities and death of 5,552 individuals.

    Fourteen illegal drug manufacturing laboratories had also been dismantled along with 419 drug dens.

    PDEA records showed that P40.39 billion worth of illegal drugs were seized during the said period.

    A total of 16,706 barangays had been cleared of illegal drug presence while 17,175 barangays have yet to be cleared.

    Records from the Philippine National Police, on the other hand, showed that a total of 726 government workers – 347 government employees, 297 elected officials and 82 uniformed personnel, have been arrested.

    Over all, 8,185 have been arrested composed of 222 foreign nationals, 297 elected officials, 82 uniformed personnel, 347 government employees, 725 drug group leaders or members, 2,290 target listed personalities, 57 armed group members, 813 drug den keepers, 191 wanted listed personalities, 10 celebrities or prominent personalities and 3,151 personalities arrested from high-impact operations.

    The government operations also showed that 2,799 minors involved in illegal drug activities were rescued during anti-drug operations and turned over to the local social welfare offices, while 485,295 people had surrendered and are now benefitting from the Recovery and Wellness Program.

    Also, Aquino admitted that he felt awkward during the time that he worked closely with Robredo because he was of the opinion that he cannot just “dictate” on the Vice President, especially since he is just a Cabinet undersecretary.

    “Nahirapan kasi ako eh, to be honest with you, as the co-chair. Number one, it’s hard for me to dictate dahil Vice President siya, eh, Usec lang naman ako (I had difficulty, to be honest with you, as the co-chair. Number one, it’s hard for me to dictate because she’s the Vice President, and I am just a Usec,” Aquino said.

    He said this was also the reason why he was not able to advise the Vice President against meeting with foreign groups.

    He also recalled that he had advised Robredo to meet with the different clusters under ICAD and to listen to some of the briefings which the Vice President had rejected.

    Robredo agreed to be ICAD co-chair in November. She was fired by President Duterte 19 days later.