Tall order for PDEA
TAKING REINS OF DRUG WAR
With its manpower the size of just a small police station now entrusted to oversee an entire region, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas is facing a tall order in becoming the sole agency responsible for fighting illegal drugs.
The regional office – which covers Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, and Negros Oriental – only has 95 workers at the moment: 49 drug enforcers personnel, 36 administration personnel, and 10 contractual employees.
“Our strength is more or less the strength of one police station. We need more in order to address the problem of illegal drugs,” said PDEA-7 officer-in-charge lawyer Ana Lynn Hernandez.
Hernandez did not dismiss the idea that the antinarcotics operations may be affected given their limited manpower, but she said PDEA-7 will seek help from local government units and 20 government agencies that are members of the Inter-Agency Committee against Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
Separately, Police Regional Office-7 Director Jose Mario Espino confirmed police are relegated to the role of intelligence gatherers in the fight against drugs and will now focus more on other crimes like robbery, rape, carnapping, motor-napping, homicide, murder, theft, and physical injuries.
But he quickly left a warning to illegal drug operators.
“It doesn't mean we will stop acting on the complaint ng ating mga citizen or barangay captain, na (kung) talagang in flagrante nasa harap nila at tinuturo nila na may drug den diyan, drug laboratory, we will immediately ask the PDEA to take the lead role and conduct the operation,” he said.
The Philippine National Police has announced it would stop all programs related to the anti-illegal drugs campaign.
“We are turning over the task to PDEA... We'll just look for other things to work on, just not drugs for now,” PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said in a press briefing yesterday.
Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded are among the programs that have been stopped following Dela Rosa's order.
The PNP's Drug Enforcement Group will now be limited to intelligence production and monitoring.
Dela Rosa said the police will now focus on other crimes and on internal “cleansing,” or the operation to apprehend corrupt police officers in the PNP ranks.
The PNP chief, however, admitted that he feels regret over the “gains” that the police have achieved in the drug war for the past year.
Yesterday, Espino's office received the directive regarding the change of hands for the anti-drug campaign and he already instructed city and provincial police directors to gather information in line with the anti-drug operations and to coordinate with PDEA personnel.
Espino stressed that the transfer of responsibility should not be construed as a weakness on the side of the PNP since PDEA, under the law, is really the prime agency mandated to curb the country's drug problem.
“It's all in the matter of coordination of both law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Acknowledging PDEA's lack of manpower, Espino said police will be there to assist them, adding that all Drug Enforcement Units (DEUs) in police stations and police headquarters will remain active.
“Mananatili pa rin pero they will help PDEA (in their) intelligence gathering kasi tayo ang may tao sa baba. Pero kung positive yung (area with illegal drugs), napakadali naman sigurong tawagin ang PDEA sa operation but it should be the PDEA who will lead,” he said.
But the Cebu Provincial Anti-Drug Abuse Office is not convinced that the PDEA-7 can effectively man the fight against illegal drugs.
CPADAO Chief Ivy Durano-Meca recalled that when the president once gave the responsibility to PDEA earlier this year, barangay officials complained that PDEA's presence was not felt due to limited manpower. She said as far as Cebu province is concerned, PDEA leading the war last time did not produce good results, especially at the grassroots level.
“We understand that their manpower is limited and in terms of operations like buybusts, makaya ba kaha nila'g operate considering that their agency is focusing on the entire Region-7?” she said.
Now that the PNP is barred from conducting operations, Meca believes stopping the illegal drug proliferation will even be more difficult considering it was not completely wiped out in the past months when multiple sectors like the PNP, PDEA, Department of Health, and other agencies have worked hand in hand.
She reiterated that the war on drugs should be a “shared responsibility” and not be solely delegated to one agency.
Local officials interviewed by The FREEMAN yesterday also expressed apprehensions about the PDEA-7's readiness to continue the drug war in the same intensity as when it was handled by the police.
Cebu City Councilors Raymond Alvin Garcia and Joel Garganera are concerned about the limited manpower of the agency.
“Di kay ko mouyon ana because they are really undermanned. You go ra gud PDEA-7 now, tan-awa ra gud ang ilang facilities, tan-awa ilang mga tawo didto. Pwerte gyud gamaya. Unya tanawa ang police, pwerte gyud daghana pero undermanned pa man gani ang police,” Garcia said.
Instead of winning the war, Garcia is concerned the drug problem will worsen as drug personalities might undermine PDEA's capabilities.
“Ako I'm worried basin mamalik gyud. Modaghan na sad ang drugas sa Pilipinas, mogara na sad ang mga drug lord, etcetera. Kay kahibawo man sila nga undermanned na ang PDEA. Dapat the whole police force gyud para nako, that's my idea,” Garcia said.
Garganera, for his part, believes that the president is merely assessing the situation.
“Mura ba og stop lang sa, let us try to assess if we are really on the right direction ba but for me, if we just leave that to PDEA, I mean I'm not trying to undermine their capabilities ba, we all know they are really much undermanned. I don't think we can solve the problem,” he said.
Yet despite facing an inadequate number of workers, PDEA-7 remains committed to the fight.
“PDEA will orchestrate all the efforts, with the assistance of the government agencies, in this war so this is not something they (illegal drug users and pushers) should be happy about,” Hernandez said.
As the Halloween nears, this physically-challenged man looks for spooky mask inside a mall in Cebu City.