THE country’s drug problem -- with Chinese, African and Mexican drug syndicates facilitating the supply of illegal drugs to an estimated 3.7 million users to earn P27 billion a year -- according to the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, is ‘never a minor challenge to the Duterte government.’
“As for President Duterte, the drug problem entails a war -- a strong and relentless fight,” said PDEA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña, a retired PNP 3-star general from Philippine Military Academy Class 1973 who used to head the Davao City-based Police Regional Office 11 in Southern Mindanao.
Even before the inauguration of President Duterte on June 30, 2016, the Filipino people had already felt the strong fight that he would lead against illegal drugs. Eradicating the drug menace in the country was made the number one priority program of his administration, officials said.
It was the reason why the President picked his most trusted police official, Director General Ronald “Bato” M. dela Rosa, to be his first PNP chief while designating Lapeña as the 5th director general of the PDEA, vice another retired 3-star PNP general, Arturo G. Cacdac Jr. of PMA Class 1978.
Since July 1, Gen. Dela Rosa’s PNP Anti-Illegal Drug Campaign Plan called Project: Double Barrel has triggered the conduct of nearly 23,700 police anti-narcotics operations, which led to the arrest of over 22,700 known drug personalities and the killing of nearly 1,400 armed drug traffickers during gunfights with arresting officers.
The conduct of the PNP Oplan: Tokhang during the period has also resulted in the surrender of around 734,000 confessed drug personalities composed of more than 680,000 shabu or marijuana users and over 53,000 drug traffickers. Police have already visited nearly 1.7 million houses since the Oplan: Tokhang was implemented.
These operations, however, have cost the lives of 13 policemen and three soldiers and injuries to 38 other police officers and eight Armed Forces personnel.
Lapeña, on the other hand, was ordered by the President to stop the drug problem in three to six months by doubling the agency’s efforts. In turn, the new PDEA chief called on all PDEA operating units to conduct high-impact operations and arrest of high-value targets to suppress the supply of dangerous drugs.
Last July 26, he also doubled the operational targets of all PDEA operating units for the second semester of the year and convened all 18 PDEA regional directors to assess and reassess the fight against drugs.
During the first 100 days of the Duterte presidency, Lapeña said the “fight against drugs has been seen, felt and participated by the Filipino people,” in referring to the intensified war against illegal drugs they are carrying out together with the PNP and other law enforcement agencies.
As the lead agency against illegal drugs, PDEA, in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, has conducted a total of 7,928 anti-drug operations that led to the arrest of 8,428 drug personalities, the filing of 7,002 drug cases and the seizure of P8.21 billion worth of dangerous drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECs) from June 30 to last October 7, he said.
“Due to the intensified efforts of these anti-drug units, the first floating shabu laboratory and industrial-type shabu laboratory were discovered and dismantled. There were five clandestine shabu laboratories dismantled during the period, compared to the two illegal facilities dismantled in 2015 and three in the first semester of 2016,” Lapeña said.
As shabu laboratories were being shut down, a notable increase in the volume of illegal drugs confiscated was also observed. A total of 573.95 kilograms of shabu, the primary drug of choice, were already seized. The highest seizure of shabu was recorded so far this year, with a total of 1,453.46 kilograms, exceeding the yearly seizures from 2010 to 2015, he explained.
Lapeña noted that these accomplishments were the consequential action of drug personalities in trying to avoid detection and making quick disposals of precursors used to manufacture shabu wherein eight incidences of recovery of abandoned chemicals in expressways were recorded.
For the period, 25 drug dens nationwide were shut down permanently. Drug dens are one-stop shops that facilitate administration, delivery, storage, distribution and sale or use of illegal drugs.