I’m not the type to say “I told you so” but now it’s really tempting to say so.
Had the law been strictly followed as I pointed out in a previous column last March 3, precious lives in the bloom of youth could have been saved, the image of the Philippine National Police wouldn’t be in such a deeper mess as it is now, and President Duterte’s public satisfaction rating could have avoided a significant plunge.
But the President still deserves kudos for finally doing the right thing. And it appears he’s serious this time because it’s now in black and white, unlike before when he just made some semblance of what appeared to be a verbal order, and since nothing came out of it, it seemed mere lip service.
I’m referring to the memorandum signed by Duterte dated October 10 – directing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to be the sole agency in the conduct of all campaigns and operations against illegal drugs – which may turn out to be the single most valuable document that could change the course of history in the current drug war which has become so bloody and controversial that it has been pulling the administration down.
While the memo needs clarification – considering it looks impossible to implement as PDEA has “only more than a thousand agents” that constitute the “sole agency” faced with a gargantuan task – it has the potential to be a game changer to spare our country from further international embarrassment with the image of our police taking a beating worldwide.
With the PNP plagued by rottenness (Duterte himself said that as much as “40 percent” of its members are “corrupt to the core”) that took years to nurture and grow into a culture of depravity and impunity that might even seem irreversible, it simply is foolhardy to expect the organization to be cleansed of scalawags within just a few months.
Thus, to put PDEA, instead of PNP, on top of all anti-drug efforts is the right move and is in accordance with law – RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 mandating PDEA to be the implementing arm of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) which really ought to be the overall strategist in the drug war.
Yes, it’s the DDB—not PNP or even PDEA—that’s supposed to be overall-in-charge. As provided in RA 9165, the DDB is on top of the command hierarchy, with PDEA in a supporting role as its implementing arm.
The law empowers DDB to “be the policy-making and strategy-formulating body in the planning and formulation of policies and programs on drug prevention and control.” It is specifically tasked to “formulate, develop and establish a comprehensive, integrated, unified and balanced national drug abuse prevention and control strategy.”
Thus, it’s the DDB – under the Office of the President – that should be crafting policies and strategies to fight the drug war, and implementing them thru PDEA.
As I’ve said last March, the PNP’s Oplan Tokhang and other operation plans are not mandated by law if not crafted and approved by DDB – a high-powered organization of l7 members, nine of whom are Cabinet Secretaries.
Here’s what I wrote then: “PDEA ought to be in the forefront of all anti-drug operations, and the only time police can participate is when they are deputized by PDEA. And instead of the PNP devising its own Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel, it would be prudent for Gen. Bato to utilize the collective wisdom of DDB members in crafting a strategy that might be more effective in winning the drug war.”
Had the law been strictly followed, rogue cops in drug operations might have been restrained from going on a rampage, young people like Kian delos Santos and Raymart Siapo might still be alive, and many more bad news could have been averted.
But Duterte’s memo is good news because of its purpose as stated therein – “in order to bring order to the operation/campaign against illegal drugs, thus pinpointing precise accountability…”