Tulabut: Real deal

IS THE government’s anti-drug war working?

I must admit that question would take some tickle to answer, if not raise brows, or make one smirk.

A Google search of news on the operations of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) would yield some likeable results.

That is insofar as the PDEA’s “no-respector” campaign where the agency does not discriminate in its operations. A quick rundown of the search results impressed on me the crackdown where people in government, academe, studentry, laity are not exempted. No matter the cover even if somebody poses as sweet couple, an astute businessman. Or even if one is a high ranking PDEA officer.

Few days ago, PDEA even urged the electorate not to vote for 289 in the LGU (barangay chairmen and kagawads) who are in the so-called narco-list of President Duterte. Involved or not, these barangay leaders now see the specter of facing charges should they continue to fail to form their anti-drug councils.

PDEA disclosed that 9,000 villages nationwide where drug thrives have no functioning drug councils. This has prompted DILG to issue a memorandum to a whopping 30 percent of the country’s 42,000 barangays (what a reveal, somebody must have been sleeping on the job there!)

There were also recent arrests on educators and foreign students. In Mindanao, PDEA agents are hunting down the president of Cotabato Foundation for Science and Technology – Samson Molao – whom PDEA says is wanted for allegedly operating a drug den right inside the school. Meanwhile, two Nigerian nationals, posing as college students were arrested in a buy-bust operations. The PDEA netted P2.5 million worth of shabu in an operation last week.

PDEA’s own officers and men who err are not also spared. It’s chief in Calabarzon, along with 61 agents and other personnel have been relieved from their duties due to reports of alleged extortion activities in Cavite and Batangas.

It is not often that a law enforcement agency would crack the whip on its own men, much more the regional head. PDEA just did it.

Moreso, PDEA is whipping hard on those who are on the watchlist or target-listed drug personalities. Most recent of which (only few days ago) are buy bust operations in Cebu, Negros Occidental, Cavite, Maguindanao, Sorsogon, Davao and Iloilo. The operations led to the alleged members of notorious drug syndicates like the Jessie Ramos, Sabal, Edgar Gardon, Prevendido and Ambalgan drug groups.

***

PDEA Director General (DG) Aaron Aquino may have the most unenviable job in law enforcement. After all, he committed that his agency’s anti-drug campaign will be “less-bloody, high-impact.”

“I value life” he was quoted as saying in newspaper reports. This is perhaps why in his first 100 days in office as PDEA top honcho bravely went to the Lion’s Den and guested in Bawal ang Pasaway program of highly respectable (read: feared) TV host Winnie Monsod.

He said then there were only three reported deaths. The PDEA was able to arrest 1,321 drug suspects, including 331 high-value targets, in a total of 3,476 operations for the same period. While loss of lives in any law enforcement endeavor may not always be acceptable, I think that the number is small when compared to other previous anti-drug operations of other agencies.

He has not only been arresting suspected drug users, pushers and traffickers. He is rooting for reformation (not just rehabilitation). Soon, the Bahay Silangan he has been pushing will come to fruition.

That facility will be in conformance with the national drug reformation program. It will offer temporary refuge aimed at reforming drug offenders into self-sufficient and law-abiding members of society.

This white-haired yet baby-face looking DG has a target to clear 24,000 barangays when President Duterte ends his term in 2022. He could be the government’s anti-drug campaign’s real deal.
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