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Cops say drug war ‘a daunting task’ for PDEA

TAGBILARAN CITY, Philippines — The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is facing a tough task winning the drug war, according to police officials from the province and the region.

No less than the father of Bohol's relentless war on drugs, which was launched long before then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte became Philippine president, has expressed apprehension over the war's new direction.

Senior Superintendent Dennis Palo Agustin, former Bohol police director and now Deputy Regional Director for Operations for Cebu-based Police Regional Office (PRO-7), believes the shift of role in the war on drugs will be an uphill struggle for PDEA.

"PDEA will have a hard time because of lack of resources," said Agustin in a text message to The Freeman.

Between 2013 to 2016, under the instruction by Bohol Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, thousands of drug pushers and users here were either arrested or killed during the incumbency of Agustin as Bohol police director.

Meanwhile, incumbent Bohol Police Director Senior Supt. Felipe Rivera Natividad, for his part, said they have to abide by the president's new directive — and "next is how to sustain what we (have) started against our anti-drug campaign in accordance with the directive."

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"I know it will not be easy but with concerted effort as ONE BOHOL we can make it possible," Natividad said.

Earlier, Duterte directed the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Customs (BOC) and all other agencies or ad hoc anti-drug task force to stop conducting anti-illegal drug operations.

Duterte issued the directive “in order to bring order to the operation/campaign against illegal drugs, thus pinpointing precise accountability.”

Police Superintendent Nicomedes Olaivar, former Tagbilaran City PNP chief and former head of Bohol SWAT, said the police have accomplished a lot in the war against illegal drugs despite the perceived lapses in other parts of the country.

Olaivar, now the commander of the Provincial Public Safety Company of Lanao del Norte, believes the drug problem will only worsen if the PNP is not in the lead role.

If the lapses should be corrected, Olaivar said, it should be done on a case-to-case basis, not across the board.

Chief Inspector Roland Desiree Lavisto, Ubay, Bohol police chief, echoed Olaivar's sentiments, saying "diri sa Bohol murag duha ra sila (PDEA personnel), dili na makaya."

In an interview, Senior Inspector Gerald Luna, Dauis, Bohol police chief, said it would be difficult for PDEA to sustain the drug war.

Luna, citing the situation in Guindulman and Candijay towns in Bohol, said the drug infestation in these two towns had dramatically been minimized due to the PNP's leadership in the campaign, which got a boost from the Duterte administration.

"Mamalik na sab tong mga mamaligyaay og shabu nga niundang na unta. Dugay ra ang usa ka buwan," Luna warned.

Comprehensive approach

Police Senior Superintendent Jonathan Cabal, intelligence division chief at PRO-7, said the war on drugs can still be won by the PDEA if their personnel and resources are augmented.

"For them (PDEA) to succeed, they would need to beef up their personnel strength, to somehow address the humongous problem at hand," Cabal said.

Cabal said the war on drugs should not be left with PDEA and the PNP alone, but also with the family that should be at the forefront.

"Be that as it may, the society itself, spearheaded by the family, should be at the forefront on this war on drugs. We can't simply let the government alone take care of the problem," Cabal said.

He stressed: "If the family is strengthened, then the community has a better chance of fighting this menace." (FREEMAN)

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