WITH THE six-year Duterte administration on its way to the halfway mark, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson pressed officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) to now go after the “big fish“ in the illegal drug trade.
“You have to refocus because the police are now capable of going after street peddlers. You have to concentrate on those at the higher levels,” he said at the Senate 2019 budget hearing on the two agencies.
The senator, also a former police director general, cited the many incidents wherein illegal drugs slipped past the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and found their way to drug peddlers, many of whom mix them with candy or deodorizer to maximize their profits.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has put the war against illegal drugs as one of the priorities in his agenda, a campaign that has been widely criticized for the alleged human rights violations it has spawned.
For his part, PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino said the government is “definitely winning the war on drugs,” citing the higher prices of shabu (methamphetamine), the increased number of drug-free barangays, and the 152,000 drug personalities arrested.
“Definitely we’re winning the war on drugs just on the law of supply and demand. Shabu now cost P6.8 million per kilo. Formerly, it’s just P5 million. It just shows that there was a shortage of supply,” he said.
More than 8,000 barangays out of 24,000 have also been declared a drug-free area, he added.
Mr. Lacson also told PDEA to address the “excessive quantity of dangerous drugs” worth P9.7 billion in its custody being used as evidence in court cases.
He said the weakness in the chain of custody has resulted in technicalities that lead to the dismissal of cases.
Under the National Expenditure Program, the proposed 2019 budget for PDEA is P1.979 billion, and P258.324 million for DDB. The PDEA has asked for an additional budget of P2.58 billion for next year. — Camille A. Aguinaldo