By Chito Chavez
The gravity of the country’s illegal drug woes has brought fear to the public after the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) confirmed that influential personalities are behind the unlawful trade.
PDEA Director-General Aaron Aquino said the agency’s watch list included prominent names of judges, prosecutors, celebrities, and even members of the press.
With this revelation, concerned citizens have cowed in fear that the Philippines may end up a drug state similar to Colombia if the country’s anti-narcotics authorities fail to address the problem immediately.
However, critics of the Duterte government who have made the illegal drug war as one of its priorities insisted that operations pertaining to the drug trade should be carried out lawfully devoid of any form of abuses and human rights violations.
Aquino admitted the Herculean tasks faced by the undermanned agency saying that aside from narco-politicians, other influential personalities also have links to the illegal drug trade.
Vowing PDEA’s intense fight against illegal drugs even with its meager resources, Aquino explained personalities in the “watch list’’ are users and protectors.
To further accentuate his point, Aquino bared some members of the judiciary have circumvented the law to exonerate drug lords in exchange for financial gains.
Citing as an example, a PDEA agent said that instead of drug distribution or sale, prosecutors tend to downgrade the cases filed by anti-narcotics operatives to illegal drug use where suspect can post bail.
When this occurs, the suspect eventually is temporarily set free and may jump bail and escape jail term and other similar penalties.
Aquino expressed frustration that in some instances, celebrated drug cases were junked with drug money pouring into the judicial system.
The PDEA chief also recognized that PDEA needs the President’s directive for the agency to prioritize the validation of judges and prosecutors with supposed illegal drug connections.
To recall, Duterte previously named some members of the judiciary who supposedly have illegal drug links.
Three of them have been able to clear their names after the Supreme Court conducted investigations.
Aquino noted some of the names on the drugs watch list were provided by the arrested drug suspects.
To guarantee its accuracy, Aquino noted that PDEA cannot release yet the names in the watch list as it has to go through some extreme, stringent, and careful scrutiny, reevaluation, and validation.
READ MORE: 46 local officials in Duterte’s narcolist