Follow RA 9165 to avoid any PDEA-PNP ‘misencounter’

Published May 25, 2021, 12:29 AM

by Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina

Finding Answers

Former Senator
Atty. Joey Lina

Unless otherwise repealed, amended, suspended, or superseded, a law supposedly remains in effect and it ought to be implemented no matter what – unless, of course, budgetary constraints make it impossible to do so.

RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 is no exception. This specific law is still in effect. Therefore, all actions pertaining to the administration’s intensive and relentless campaign against the drug menace ought to be in accordance with the spirit and letter of RA 9165.

The law states that Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) serves as the implementing arm of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB). As provided in Section 84 (a), Article 9 of RA 9165, PDEA shall “implement or cause the efficient and effective implementation of the national drug control strategy formulated by the Board thereby carrying out a national drug campaign program which shall include drug law enforcement, control and prevention campaign with the assistance of concerned government agencies.”

Section 77 of the same Article 9 of the law provides that DDB “shall be the policy-making and strategy-formulating body in the planning and formulation of policies and programs on drug prevention and control.”  And Section 86, also of Article 9 of RA 9165, states that “the NBI, PNP and the Bureau of Customs shall maintain close coordination with the PDEA on all drug related matters.”

With the aforementioned provisions of the law, one could surmise that it is very clear that the spirit and intent of RA 9165 is towards a setup where the PDEA is the lead law enforcement agency in the drug war and implementing the policies and strategies made by the DDB, with the Philippine National Police merely assisting in law enforcement and working under PDEA.

But as PDEA previously authorized all chiefs of police to be its deputies in all cities and towns all over the country, the PNP has become very visible in the campaign against illegal drugs. This created an impression in the eyes of the public that the police, instead of PDEA, is at the forefront of the drug war. And it also heightened fears that police abuses would rear its ugly head and scalawags would go on a rampage—the primary reason why the law was enacted to create the PDEA and stop police abuses.

With the PNP supposed to “maintain close coordination with the PDEA on all drug related matters” as specifically provided in Section 86, Article 9 of the law, many might find it implausible for a “misencounter” to happen between PNP and PDEA agents, as what apparently transpired last Feb. 24 in Quezon City that  resulted in the deaths of two police officers, a PDEA agent, and a PDEA informant.

And last May 14, another “misencounter” happened but it was not bloody, fortunately. Days after the incident, news reports of ABS-CBN quoted a top PNP official saying: “Actually, there was a coordination made by the PNP, as well as the PDEA coordinating with the concerned police station, but there was a miscommunication.”

Subsequent news footages showed the PNP official, after meeting with PDEA counterparts, as saying: “Maglalabas kami ng unified operation guidelines. Ang basic lang naman doon siguraduhin na ang operatiba ng PDEA at PNP ay hindi dapat sila mag-operate sa isang lugar, sa isang panahon, pati na rin NBI (We will come up with unified operation guidelines. The basic thing there is to ensure that they don’t operate at the same time, in the same place, even the NBI).”

Many find the statements confusing. It may not even be in accordance with the spirit and letter of RA 9165.

Some are asking: How come there would be miscommunication if the PNP is supposed to “maintain close coordination with the PDEA on all drug related matters” as stated in the law? Why should not the PDEA and PNP “operate at the same time, in the same place” when PDEA is supposed to be the lead agency, with the PNP merely providing assistance?

And would the “unified operation guidelines” emanate from the DDB which is supposed to be the policy-making body? Or would the PNP and PDEA be the only ones to formulate the guidelines, leaving out the DDB?

While the PDEA director general certainly has all the right to come up and push for new policies to effectively wage the drug war, considering he is a regular member of the DDB and not a mere consultant of the DDB like the heads of the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation, policy-making ought to be a joint undertaking of all members of the DDB.

The DDB is a high-powered organization composed of l7 members, nine of whom belong to President Duterte’s Cabinet – the Secretaries of the Departments of Justice, Health, National Defense, Finance, Labor and Employment, Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development, Foreign Affairs, and Education. Aside from the PDEA chief, other members are heads of the Commission on Higher Education and National Youth Commission, the national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and national president of the Philippine Association of Social Workers Inc.

With such brilliant minds in the DDB, many believe that inherent flaws and serious mistakes that have plagued the current drug campaign could have been avoided if only policies and strategies were made to undergo extensive scrutiny and planning by the DDB.

And guidelines approved by the DDB, in consultation with the PNP and other law enforcement agencies, would have better chances of success in preventing “misencounters” that are bound to happen unless the law is strictly followed.

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