WHEN he said back in 2016 that he would eradicate the illegal drug trade in six months, President Rodrigo Duterte said he thought the fight would be no different from the one he waged in his hometown Davao City.
"You can either coerce, intimidate or bribe them, or give them money and say, 'Lumabas kayo ng Davao, doon kayo magkalat sa Luzon at sa ibang lugar,'" Duterte recalled during his final State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, July 26, 2021.
Little did he know that he would be "fighting (his) own government" as nine police generals were involved in the illegal trade, he said.
"Because we are fighting a drug war that was being participated in the business by nine generals of the PNP. I did not know that I was fighting my own government," Duterte said.
In 2016, Duterte identified five retired police generals, namely, Marcelo Garbo, former Daanbantayan mayor Vicente Loot, Joel Pagdilao, Edgardo Tinio and Bernardo Diaz, as protectors of the illegal drugs trade.
They all denied involvement in illegal drugs.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) also launched an adjudication process against over 400 policemen included in Duterte's list of narco-cops.
Since 2017, 17,142 erring cops have been meted disciplinary actions and sanctions.
Among them were 906 police officers who were dismissed from the service. Some of them were due to their alleged involvement in illegal drugs and the irregularities in the conduct of illegal drugs operations.
Duterte said his administration waged war on the manufacturers, financiers, suppliers, peddlers, syndicates and their protectors in government.
The police now seize about almost a billion (pesos) worth of drugs everyday, while about a thousand Filipinos are arrested everyday over illegal drug trafficking, he said.
Data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) showed that from July 2016 to May 31, 2021, P59.93 billion worth of illegal drugs including methamphetamine hydrochloride (commonly known as shabu), marijuana leaves, cocaine and ecstasy, were seized during the conduct of anti-illegal drugs operations.
During the said period, 293,841 persons were arrested while 6,147 were killed.
The PDEA said said 22,093 of 52.55 percent of the 42,045 barangays (villages) in the country had been declared cleared from illegal drugs.
At the same time, Duterte said the government reformed drug dependents and helped them reintegrate into the society.
"Our unyielding campaign led to the surrender of millions of drug dependents, and the neutralization, capture and prosecution of thousands of drug personalities," he said.
Earlier, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said 1,222,363 drug users surrendered to the government and underwent recovery wellness programs. Around 48 percent of them have fully recovered from drug dependence.
Duterte, however, admitted that the government has a "long way (to go) in the fight against proliferation of drugs."
"This problem has hounded our country for several decades, destroying families and degrading the moral fiber of our society," he said.
He said drug peddlers have been targeting families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), who come home to find their sons or daughters involved in the illegal drug trade.
A total of 3,763 minors as young as four years old were rescued during illegal drugs operations. Of this number, 2,180 were tagged as drug pushers, two were cultivators, 189 were visitors of drug den, nine as drug den maintainers, 12 as drug den employees, one clandestine laboratory employee, 412 drug users, two runners and 929 possessors.
Duterte repeated his threat to kill those who destroy the country.
"I am a Filipino and I love my country. I do not want my country in disarray because of drugs. I do not want families to break up and become dysfunctional because of drugs," he said.
"I never deny and the ICC (International Criminal Court) can record this. Those who will destroy my country, I will kill you. And those who destroy the young people in my country, I will kill you," he said.
The ICC Prosecutor has sought clearance to launch an investigation into the alleged crimes of humanity committed under the war on drugs in the Philippines.
The government has reported that over 6,000 individuals have been killed in the drug war since 2016. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo / SunStar Philippines)