Use of minors in drug trade alarms PDEA


By Chito Chavez

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has expressed grave concern over the involvement of minors in the illegal drug trade in the country.

PDEA Dir Aaron Aquino speaks during a press conference at the PDEA headquarters in Quezon City, April 25 2018. (Mark BAlmores / MANILA BULLETIN) PDEA Dir Aaron Aquino (Mark Balmores / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Citing its imminent danger, the PDEA has continuously monitored illegal drug personalities employing minors in their drug trafficking activities.

From 2011 to June 15, 2018, the agency said 2,111 minors, aged 6 to 17 years old were nabbed and rescued for violation of the anti-drug law.

“At the onset of the drug war, from July 2016 to June 15, 2018, a total of 1,155 minors were rescued nationwide from the illegal drug trade, compared to the 956 rescued from 2011 to June 2016. They were endorsed to the DSWD offices for custody. Fifty percent of them were 17 years old,” PDEA Director-General Aaron Aquino said.

The rescued minors were composed of pushers of dangerous drugs with 959 or 45.43 percent; 725 or 34.34 percent were drug possessors; 277 or 13.12 percent were drug users; and 111 or 5.26 percent were visitors of a drug den.

The rest were either cultivators, traffickers, runners, cohorts, drug den employees or maintainers.

Drug syndicates have taken advantage of Section 6 of Republic Act 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, which exempts minors or children from criminal liability.

Although they are minors, PDEA said they will still be criminally liable if the court finds that they acted with discernment in violating the anti-drug law.

“There is a rampant use of minors as runners and couriers in the drug trade. However, some minors have become silent witnesses of illegal drug activities happening right in front of their faces, and they are not even aware of it,” Aquino said, referring to recent anti-drug operations where surveillance footage showed an ongoing shabu session in front of small children.

“Children exposed to illegal drug activity, in particular drug use is a form of child abuse. Imagine what would be the child’s upbringing like in the care of drug-addicted parents living in a drug-fueled environment. These children will be the future criminals of society if neglected,” he added.

Mandatory drug test

Despite strong opposition from various sectors, PDEA has still pushed for mandatory drug testing for high school and college students in public and private schools throughout the country to determine the extent of drug users among students, and to deter drug use, both for the purpose of reformation and rehabilitation.

Likewise, PDEA has set its sights on keeping children off the streets and away from the evil effects of drug use through Project: “Sagip Batang Solvent”

The program aims to rescue street children from the drug trade and drug abuse, with sniffers of solvent as primary targets.

“The future of our nation lies in the hands of our children. Save them by giving them the chance of a bright future,” Aquino said.