PRESIDENT Duterte’s bloody war on illegal drugs has a dismal accomplishment rating of less than one percent, Vice President Leni Robredo said yesterday as she branded as a complete failure the administration’s anti-narcotics strategy.
In a 40-page report related to her brief stint as former co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Robredo cited official government records which she claimed showed that drug supply and dirty money were only reduced by one percent despite law enforcement efforts to stop the illegal drugs trade.
“Malinaw na malinaw, na ayon mismo sa opisyal na datos, sa kabila ng lahat ng Pilipinong piñata at lahat ng perang ginasta, hindi lumampas sa isang porsiyento ang naipit natin sa supply ng shabu at sa perang kinita mula sa droga (It’s crystal clear based on official data that despite the number of Filipinos killed and the amount of money spent, the amount of shabu supply and drug money that we were able to stop did not exceed one percent),” the Vice President told a press briefing.
Robredo was supposed to release her report last December but decided to wait until after the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).
She deferred it a second time in the aftermath of the earthquakes that rocked the Mindanao island, saying the country should focus on helping the disaster victims.
In her report, Robredo noted that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was only able to seize 1,344.87 kilograms in 2019 even if the PNP estimates that 3,000 kilograms of shabu worth P25 billion are consumed every week or P1.3 trillion annually.
She said that while it was an improvement from the 2017 and 2018 seizures, which reached 1,053.91 kilograms and 785.31 kilograms, respectively, the figure was still dismal.
“Isang porsiyento. Isipin na lang natin, kung exam ito, ang magiging score ng ating pamahalaan ay 1 over 100 (One percent. Think about it. If this was an exam, the government’s score will be 1 out of 100),” she said.
The Vice President also said that despite the powers and tools available to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), “the total number of petitions for freeze orders and civil forfeiture of suspected drug-related accounts that have been filed is hardly commensurate to the scale of the drug operations in the Philippines.”
She cited the AMLC’s report during the first Rehabinasyon National Anti-Drugs Summit held in Davao City in February 2019 that it has “frozen a total of Php 1.4 billion in illegal drug-related assets from 2017-2018.”
She said that while this is almost four times higher than the assets frozen during the 2013-2016 period, “it is not even one percent of total estimated consumption, and that is just for shabu.”
“For an administration that champions the campaign against illegal drug as its flagship program, it should be able to report a sharp increase in drug-related freeze orders, civil forfeitures, and money laundering cases filed because with stronger fund interdiction in enforcement operations, there is a better chance of making HVT (High-Value Target) arrests and dismantling drug operation networks,” Robredo said.
She said that despite a relentless and costly campaign against illegal drugs in the past three and a half years, official government figures on seized drugs “glaringly pale in comparison to the total estimated consumption.”
“A massive percentage of illegal drugs is still in circulation in communities, as only about one percent of total consumption has been seized,” she said.
The Vice President said that to make a substantial dent on the drug supply “entails shifting the focus to arresting HVTs and dismantling drug networks both domestically and internationally, through measuring performance against total consumption, capacity enhancement and internal cleansing of LEAs (law enforcement agencies) to prevent the flow of drugs into the country and its distribution, strengthened cooperation with foreign counterparts, and effective fund interdiction.”
ABANDON OPLAN TOKHANG
Robredo considered the war on drugs as a failure because it only focused on a single aspect, which was the street-level enforcement “or going after small drug pushers.”
She said “Oplan: Tokhang,” which has become synonymous with drug-related killings, “must be abandoned in favor of a reinvigorated policy on anti-illegal drug enforcement that strongly promotes and ensures accountability and transparency.”
Robredo said the introduction of Tokhang, where the police conduct house-to-house visits as part of the institution’s anti-drug operations, was “unprecedented” especially since “there were no clear guidelines and protocols on how this was going to be implemented.”
She said the lack of guidelines, together with the wide discretion that was given to the police, “provided an opening for a number of unscrupulous individuals to commit abuses, tainting the integrity of the whole institution in the process.”
“It is paramount to restore the public’s confidence in the police by revoking Project: ‘Double Barrel,’ first of all, and entrusting instead the conduct of house-to-house visits to local institutions, with clear specifications on how the police will be involved, how their performance will be measured, and what safeguards will be in place to prevent abuses,” Robredo said.
Furthermore, she said “abuses should be investigated, and both administrative and criminal accountability should be exacted when necessary.”
Robredo said the creation of the ICAD is a step in the right direction “but its potential has not been maximized because of unequal participation by the member agencies and lack of strategic leadership.”
She said Executive Order No. 15 creating the ICAD should be amended to make the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) the chairperson of the inter-agency instead of PDEA and under the close and direct supervision of the President, dispensing with the need for the designation of any co-chairperson.
Robredo said the broader mandate of the DDB makes it better suited to be the chairperson of the ICAD, while the PDEA can continue to lead the Enforcement Cluster.
“Installing the DDB as chairperson will ensure that all lenses, not just law enforcement, are taken into consideration in leading the effort against illegal drugs, as anchored in the PADS (Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy),” she said.
Robredo said the government should institutionalize an evidence-based and data-driven campaign against illegal drugs by establishing an accurate and updated baseline data on the number of drug dependents, and a system for tracking the status of individuals after surrenders and arrests.
The Vice President also suggested that the government separate users from pushers in processing arrests and surrenders for proper reporting.
“In processing arrests and surrenders, protocols should be strict about delineating between users from pushers. This way, the numbers being reported of those that have been accounted for can be broken down accordingly. This will entail coordination chiefly among the PDEA, the PNP, the DILG, the BJMP, and the DOH,” she said.