PNP units told to update 'priority targets' in anti-drug campaign

PNP units told to update 'priority targets' in anti-drug campaign
File — Police officers investigate an alleged drug dealer killed by an unidentified gunman in Manila.

MANILA, Philippines — Units of the Philippine National Police were directed Monday to update their lists of priority targets in their campaign against illegal narcotics. 

This came as Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, acknowledged Tuesday that illegal drugs syndicates are still operating in the country, which he claimed "means that they are getting help from drug pushers in the communities."

Eleazar's admission comes after the confiscation of some 809 kilos of shabu over the past week in separate operations in Zambales, Bataan and Cavite.

In a statement sent to reporters Monday, Eleazar also said that the directive followed President Rodrigo Duterte's instruction "to further step up" the campaign against illegal drugs amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

'Drug syndicates still have a market'

The PNP chief's statement also runs counter to his repeated claim of significant gains in the Duterte administration's so-called war on drugs. 

Joint operatives of the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency seized P3.4 billion worth of shabu, or some 500 kilos, in a joint operation in Candelaria, Zambales last week—the biggest drug haul so far this year.

Four Chinese traffickers were killed in the operation. The fatalities included Xu Youhua who was tagged as the local contact of an international drugs syndicate in the country and Bashar Bangon who was tagged as the key player in illegal drugs distribution in Metro Manila and Calabarzon.

Eleazar said they are now working with the PDEA for the immediate destruction of the confiscated illegal drugs.

"The confiscation of more or less 809 kilos of shabu last week is proof that illegal drug syndicates still have a market in the country and that is the reason why we need to further step up our campaign down to the community level, with the distributors or the sellers as the priority targets," he said.

In 2020, though, crystal methamphetamines or shabu was still found to be behind the most arrest and treatment admissions in the Philippines, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found in a report. 

Citing figures from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Dangerous Drugs Board, the UNODC earlier this year said that shabu "remains the main drug of concern in the Philippines" with just a year left under the Duterte administration. 

Government data also acknowledges over 12,000 barangays in the country that have yet to be classified as "drug-free."

'Abuse won't be tolerated'

The PNP chief also assured Monday that the renewed campaign against illegal drugs "comes with the intensified efforts to run after policemen who are involved in the illegal drugs trade."

Last week, a policeman assigned in Tarlac City was arrested in a buy-bust. He was tagged as the protector and financier of some drug pushers in Tarlac.

Eleazar vowed to dismiss him. 

"On the side of the PNP, we assure our countrymen that we will not tolerate abuses and wrongdoings in our ranks in our aggressive campaign against illegal drugs just like what we have shown in the last five years when hundreds of our personnel were dismissed from the service for illegal drugs involvement," Eleazar said.

Eleazar in his statements continues to insist that cases of dirty cops are all isolated incidents. 

Local and international rights groups—including the country’s own rights commission along with ASEAN-linked think tanks—say that the actual death toll from the drug war may be as high as 30,000. — Franco Luna

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