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House concludes debates on meager PDEA budget

The House of Representatives ended Thursday its interpellation on the meager P1.4 billion proposed budget for next year of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) with questions raised about the PDEA’s role in the more than 65,591 police operations related to drugs, its plan on those involved in the P6.4 billion shabu shipment from China, and recent figures showing the gravity of the drug problem in the country.

Rep. Scott Davies Lanete, M. D. (3rd District, Masbate), a vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, sponsored and the defended the P1.4 billion budget of the PDEA, and its request for an additional P934.5 million funding for items needed in pursuit of the agency’s mandate as the lead agency in the government’s anti-drug campaign.

Rep. Antonio Tinio (Party-list, ACT Teachers) queried the role of the PDEA in the 65,591 anti-drug operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP). He said the data was included in the accomplishment report provided by the PNP during the deliberation on its 2018 budget, covering the period July 1, 2016 to August 29, 2017.

The PNP anti-drug operations resulted in 2,612 arrests and 3,778 deaths based on the PNP report, said Tinio.

Lanete said since the PDEA is the lead agency in the anti-drug campaign per the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, the agency takes the lead in joint coordination activities and the intelligence gathering activities of the PNP.

Tinio asked if it would be correct to say that all of the 65,591 anti-drug operations conducted by the PNP were coordinated with the PDEA.

Lanete said not all of the PNP operations were coordinated with the PDEA because some of these were not initially drug-related. “In the course of the PNP’s mission or operation, the agency might have found something related to drugs and that was when the PNP called the PDEA,” said Lanete.

Tinio asked if the PDEA shared intelligence information for the PNP operations. Lanete said there is a monthly workshop among different government agencies wherein information sharing is done to keep them updated with the times.

Tinio queried about the recent one-time, big-time operations of the PNP such as the one launched in Bulacan which resulted in the death of 32 persons and the operation in Caloocan which resulted in the death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos. “Coordinated po ba yan sa PDEA?,” said Tinio.

Lanete said the PDEA would have wanted the PNP or the other agencies to coordinate beforehand. “Since this was an anti-criminality operation, the PDEA was informed only after the operations. Their anti-drug campaign is called Double Barrel while this one is called Oplan Galugad, so it’s really an anti-criminality operation,” said Lanete.

“So you are saying wala po kayong coordination sa one-time, big-time operations. Wala kayong intel material na binigay sa PNP”,” said Tinio. Lanete confirmed there was none.

Rep. Edcel Lagman (1st District, Albay) asked Lanete if it is correct to say that the PDEA was not involved in extra-judicial killings and in the killing of teenagers Kian delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz.

Lanete assured Lagman that the PDEA was not involved in EJKs and in the death of the two teenagers.

Lagman requested the PDEA to submit the following data on or before Tuesday: number of illegal drug dependents, drug importers, drug-affected barangays, drug dependents undergoing rehabilitation, and rate of drug consumption nationwide.

Meanwhile, on the issue of the P6.4 billion worth of shabu which entered the country’s ports, Rep. Harry Roque (Party-list, Kabayan) said , it was the PDEA again which pointed to the fact they should have been given the lead in apprehending the drugs since they have the mandate under the law to implement the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

Roque asked if the PDEA is ready to file the appropriate charges against members of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) who could have hindered efforts to investigate the individuals in the P6.4 billion shabu importation given all the technical lapses that they committed in apprehending the prohibited drug.

Lanete said the PDEA is ready to file the appropriate cases and is just awaiting the signature of the PDEA head. “And for that matter, PDEA will not hesitate to file cases against other agencies that would like to step on the shoes of PDEA, the lead agency in the anti-drugs campaign,” he said.

However, he refused to divulge the information of the cases as these are yet to be filed.

Roque said that having followed closely the House and Senate investigations on the P6.4 billion shabu smuggling, his observation is that there is absolutely no direct evidence linking either the presidential son nor the presidential son-in-law in any trade of illegal drugs.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez queried about the worth of the illegal drugs industry, the number of drug users in the country and the average consumption of a drug addict, among others.

Lanete said the illegal drug industry is worth P120 billion while the number of drug users in the country has reached four million. The average consumption of a drug dependent is 0.04 grams, twice a week, he said.

“Severe users comprise one percent; moderate users total 10 percent; and occasional users amount to 90 percent,” he said.

Suarez said there is a severe intelligence failure because until now authorities have not captured the big druglords and suppliers. “Napaka-alarming po ng problema. Maybe we in the House can make an appeal to enhance your capability. Just to magnify again the drug issue, napakaliit ng binibigay na support sa anti-drug campaign and yet the anti-drug campaign is the banner program of our President,” he said.

Lanete said President has a marching order to the PDEA and Dangerous Drugs Board to really be in the frontline of the campaign against the drug menace in the country. / RBB | congress-pr

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