Anti-drug raids to continue with over 24k 'drug personalities' arrested under Marcos — DILG

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Anti-drug raids to continue with over 24k 'drug personalities' arrested under Marcos � DILG
FILE - An alleged drug dealer is handcuffed after a drug buy bust operation conducted by policemen where they caught this 18 year old boy selling marijuana in Manila on May 12, 2018. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has left nearly 4,000 drug suspects dead and seen human rights groups claim he was responsible for a crime against humanity. The anti-drugs campaign enjoys popular support while the fiery-tongued Duterte has rejected any criticism of his human rights record.
AFP / Noel Celis

MANILA, Philippines — After it spent much of the campaign season building support for its "recalibrated" anti-drug program, the Department of the Interior and Local Government changed tune Tuesday.

The government agency said that anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of drug offenders from law enforcement personnel "will continue with the same fervor" even under the supposedly "new multi-sectoral flagship program."

In a statement sent to reporters, DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. said that the country’s anti-illegal drugs drive has been "gaining ground" after recording some 24,159 drug personalities who have been arrested from July 1 to November 24 alone. He did not mention the nearly 50 drug suspects killed in operations claimed by the Philippine National Police leadership earlier this month. 

The interior chief also vowed that there would be no letup in anti-illegal drug raids and operations by law enforcement units even as its new Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan or BIDA program shifts its focus on demand reduction and rehabilitation of drug users.

"BIDA will also focus on supporting drug addicts so that they can completely change their lives [but] the raids on drug dens and the police and other authorities pursuit of drug lords, financiers and drug peddlers will not stop. That's still going on," Abalos said in mixed Filipino and English in his statement Tuesday. 

"The police should not be the only ones to act. Citizens are our partners in the anti-drug campaign. All of us must take action and become BIDA advocates."

Citing PNP data, Abalos said the national police's aggressive campaign against illegal drugs has yielded the confiscation of some P9.7-billion worth of illegal drugs and the arrest of 22,646 drug personalities in 18,505 anti-illegal drug operations nationwide since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. entered office in July.

The PNP has also admitted that anti-drug operations have also led to the deaths of 46 drug suspects, though Dahas PH, a running count of reported drug-related killings by the Third World Studies Center at the University of the Philippines says the death toll is closer to 127.

Rights watchdog Human Rights Watch has since castigated the PNP for what it said was the latter's underreporting of drug war killings. 

Abalos did not clarify if the ongoing drug raids would take on the format established by the Duterte administration's "Oplan Tokhang" or knock and plead. According to the first memorandum circular mentioning it, the first "barrel" of the last administration's anti-narcotics campaign is Project Tokhang, which "involves the conduct of house-to-house [visits] to persuade suspected illegal drug personalities to stop their illegal drug activities."

He also disclosed that some P9.9-billion worth of illegal drugs have also been confiscated in various drug operations during the same period, including 990 kilograms of illegal drugs worth P6.7-billion in Tondo Manila; P408-million worth of shabu in Pampanga; and P173-million worth of shabu in Quezon City. 

"These numbers are a clear indication that our strict law enforcement against drugs continues. We will continue to catch drug pushers and drug lords," Abalos said.

"For all of us, the challenge is to root out the drug problem. Here at BIDA, it is not just the police and other law enforcement units that will act, we should be with the grassroots."

BIDA program is a nationwide anti-illegal drugs program that focuses on demand reduction and rehabilitation "using a more intensified and holistic approach involving the national government agencies, local government units, and other key sectors down to the grassroots level within the framework of the law, with respect for human rights, complemented by socioeconomic development."

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