IN ANY city in any world, drug abuse is a problem. No matter how developed or poor a country is, drug abuse is always present. Anybody can be addicted to illegal drugs, minors, people of age, even senior citizens. A vice so flexible and available is a vice difficult to quit. Illegal drugs, their trafficking and usage isn’t simply a crime, but is also a social issue.
Davao City has its own share of drug problems, and has agencies dedicated to stopping them. Davao’s success in its anti-drug campaign however still remains a question.
The Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 is a policy of the State to safeguard the integrity of its citizens, especially the youth from the harmful effect of illegal drugs on their physical and mental well-being. The government shall also pursue an intensive and unrelenting campaign against the usage and selling of illegal drugs through careful planning and implementation which can be achieved through educating the people and arrest violators.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is a special arm of the Government which aims to suppress the drug problem and eradicate the players of the drug trade, with their vision of being a professional, effective, and well-respected government agency working for a drug-free Philippines. They coordinate with the police force for arresting violators.
The success or failure of the local government in addressing its drug problem is a question still waiting to be answered. Can we call it a success when there are still children who huff solvent openly in the streets, or can we call it a failure though people now are more aware of the existence of a local unit of PDEA?
According to PDEA Regional Director Emerson R. Rosales, Davao City is perceived to be the least drug affected city in the Philippines because of the local government leaders, and its uniquely strong anti-drug advocacy. Yet this does not mean that Davao is completely safe from drugs.
The most vulnerable areas in drug trafficking according to Rosales are coastal areas.
“When there are illegal settlers and is in a coastal area, there is high chance of illegal drug activity,” explained Rosales. PDEA data shows that 80 percent of arrested drug dependents are uneducated and unemployed.
As drug abuse has become a social problem, PDEA wants to end it at the roots. Instead of always just arresting violators, they educate Dabawenyos of the harmful effects of drugs through school seminars, fun runs, online contests, and short film making.
The government sees drug dependents as victims and not suspects, and are enrolled into rehabilitation centers for free.
But how is our drug problem seen by users, habitual or not? All the users interviewed for this article were asked to rate drug access in the city from one to ten, ten being the highest. The average answer was four, saying you have to have connections in order for you to easily access illegal drugs, and that it is quite difficult to access them on your own.
One interviewee named John said that they frequently get their marijuana fix for free from band gigs, and that it helps them in relaxing their nerves before performing. Another interviewee named Gab shared that he gets his supply from a certain coastal area in Davao City, “lisod lang basta init ang lugar, meaning naa’y pulis nagroaming.”
PDEA statistics show that there was a 37 percent increase in arrests from 388 in 2011 to 531 in 2012. Operations have increased by 62 percent from 249 in 2011 to 403 in 2012. PDEA was able to confiscate 343.28 grams of shabu in 2012, compared to 293.38 in 2011.
In Davao City, Rosales said that manufacturing shabu is near impossible for laboratories aren’t present. Most illegal drugs are transported from Northern and Southern Mindanao such as Lanao, Marawi, and Maguindanao.
“So far Davao City has been successful in its anti-drug advocacy,” said Rosales when asked about Davao’s status in fighting illegal drugs, “maintaining a controllable drug situation where there are no syndicates or drug lords,” he added.
Drug dependency and influence is a social problem, and every social problem must be solved starting from one’s own family. For as long as every Filipino family is well aware of the harms of drugs and is vigilant, the Philippines will be able to attain a drug-free status.
Davao City may be slowly reaching success in its anti-drug campaign, but our city still has a long way to go. PDEA and the rest of the law enforcement agencies will continue their fight against dangerous drugs, and will hopefully be successful in implementing their advocacy, for a drug-free Philippines.(Behnice Joice H. Tesiorna)