By Chito Chavez
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director-General Aaron Aquino said that, if feasible, the agency will conduct surprise drug tests on political aspirants in the coming mid-term polls.
Aquino said PDEA will serve its purpose of ridding the country of illegal drugs by subjecting politicians to drug tests, but legal experts insisted that such measure is illegal, aside from costly and too difficult to administer.
With Aquino remaining hopeful, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) called on all aspiring political candidates to voluntarily submit to a mandatory drug testing once they are elected.
“As civil servants, we must lead by example of living a healthy and drug-free lifestyle. We cannot expect the Filipino people to be drug-free if we, ourselves, are involved in these substances,” DDB Chairman Catalino Cuy said in a statement.
DDB Regulation No. 13, series of 2018, provides for the establishment and institutionalization of drug-free workplace policies in all government offices, including the conduct of authorized drug testing for local officials and appointive public officers.
This covers all appointive public officers in all offices, including all constitutional bodies, departments, bureaus, and agencies of the national government, government-owned and -controlled corporations, state and local universities and colleges, and elective officials of local government units.
Records show that some 164,265 drug personalities were arrested at the start of the President Duterte’s administration up to November 30, 2018. Included in the list are 606 government workers — 260 of them elected officials, 66 uniformed personnel, and 280 government employees. There have been 5,050 drug personalities killed during the government’s anti-illegal drug operations in that period.
PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon said the figures have undergone a rigid process of data collation before being released. He added that 159 of the arrested drug personalities were foreign nationals — 48 were part of Chinese drug syndicates while 12 were Americans, 25 were Taiwanese, and 74 other foreigners.
PDEA records said some P128.96 million worth of illegal drugs and equipment were seized in November alone. But since the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016, some P25.19 billion worth of illegal drugs and equipment were already seized.
A total of 296 law enforcers were dismissed from service for drug use while 142 personnel were sacked for other drug-related offenses.
From July 2016 to November 30, 2018, authorities also arrested 1,861 minors consisting of 1,001 pushers, 501 possessors; 255 users; 93 visitors of drug den; six drug den maintainers; three drug den employees and two cultivators.
The rescued minors were turned over to the Bahay Pagasa centers of local government units (LGUs) within eight hours of police custody before being turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Since they are minors, they would not be jailed with hardened criminals.
The PNP noted that parents of children involved in criminal activities may also be punished, citing Republic Act 7610.
Meanwhile, the PDEA has opened community-based reformation centers aimed to rehabilitate drug offenders. One of these is Balay Silangan Reformation Center, or “house of hope,” a temporary shelter intended to reform drug offenders to be self-sufficient and law-abiding.
“The Balay Silangan Reformation Center welcomes with open arms drug offenders who aspire for a renewed life and have chosen to be on the side of the government rather than help peddle illegal drugs in the streets,” Aquino said.
“The program is reformatory in nature. It is an alternative intervention for drug personalities who are not users and are not eligible to undergo medical treatment and rehabilitation in facilities supervised by the Department of Health (DOH),” he added.
Aquino noted this program wants former drug offenders to have the “opportunity to rehabilitate, to regain their dignity and place in our society.’’ He said, “PDEA is continuously enhancing its operations and programs for the holistic resolution of the country’s drug problem by clearing barangays of the drug menace. Balay Silangan, as a priority initiative, is one of them”.