IN all of 2017, there was much bad news on the government’s anti-drugs campaign – thousands killed in police operations, hundreds of thousands arrested or surrendered, concern aired by international human rights organizations, P6.4 billion worth of shabu slipping through customs and seized in raids on two warehouses in Bulacan.
At the start of 2018, one great peace of good news stood out – the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) reported that 5,072 of the country’s 42,036 barangays have been declared free of drugs. This means there is no available drug supply in these barangays, no drug laboratory or warehouse, no marijuana cultivation site, no drug den, no pushers, and users.
All these must be certified by a committee headed by the PDEA with members from the Philippine National Police, the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Health, and the Local Government Unit, before a barangay can be declared drug-free.
The first year of the Duterte administration will be remembered as the beginning of a massive campaign to eliminate the drug menace in the country. This had been the principal campaign promise of President Duterte and he lost no time in carrying it out when he assumed office in June, 2016. He had initially vowed to eliminate the menace in three months but soon discovered that the problem was so massive it may take the entire six years of his administration to root it out.
In the wake of so many killings, including those of minors like Kian de los Santos of Caloocan City, the President suspended PNP anti-drug operations and named the PDEA to lead the campaign. Despite its limited facilities and personnel, the PDEA has responded to its assignment well and with all due respect and concern for the rule of law. It continued the campaign, using personnel and resources of the PNP, the National Bureau of Investigation, and other investigative bodies.
The PDEA’s report last week that 5.072 barangays in the nation have now been declared free of drugs was a much welcome one to start the new year. It showed that the campaign continues. Stricter enforcement of regulations at the Bureau of Customs has blocked what used to be a principal entry point for drugs from China and other countries.
Police raids continue to close down the remaining drug dens. Many arrested local officials accused of protecting drug operations now face court trials.
In this second full year for the new administration, it will be acting on several other problems facing the nation, notably widespread poverty, rebellion in parts of the country, crime, corruption in some government agencies, protecting the national territory and asserting our rights and interests in international disputes.
But the campaign to eradicate the drug problem in the country continues, as shown by the PDEA report. We look forward to more reports on the progress of the campaign.