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PDEA at the helm restores integrity of drug war, ends killings – Gatchalian

VALENZUELA CITY, Philippines – Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) destroying confiscated chemicals and equipment used in producing illegal drugs from its different operatives, as shown in this January 2011 file photo. With PDEA now on top of the government’s crusade against illegal drugs, Senator Win Gatchalian hopes this would restore the integrity of the administration’s campaign against drugs and put an end to the killings perpetrated by police scalawags. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian on Thursday expressed optimism that the designation of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as the sole agency authorized to conduct anti-illegal drug operations would restore the integrity of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and put an end to the killings perpetrated by police scalawags.

In a memorandum dated October 10, 2017 and made public yesterday, President Rodrigo Duterte directed all government agencies (including the PNP) to leave to the PDEA the conduct of all campaigns and operations involving illegal drugs, as the government aims to “bring order” to its crusade against illegal drugs.

“Endless public scandals involving corrupt, bloodthirsty cops have taken a disastrous toll on the credibility of the PNP in conducting anti-illegal drug operations. The President’s order is the first step in professionalizing the government’s campaign against illegal drugs,” Gatchalian said.

“Ultimately, I believe the President’s decision will put an end to the bloodshed and make the streets safer for everyone, especially our children,” he added.

Noting that PDEA Director-General Aaron Aquino has already expressed concerns about the capacity of his agency to pursue the drug war without the help of PNP, Gatchalian said it would be necessary to beef up the manpower complement of the agency. The PDEA only has 1,274 Drug Enforcement Officers (DEOs), as of March 2017.

“To ensure the PDEA will be equipped to carry out the President’s directive, we need to recruit an army of professional anti-drug operatives who will be trained to conduct drug raids with integrity and due respect for the constitutional rights of drug personalities and civilian bystanders alike,” the senator said.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian also reiterated his proposal to equip PDEA operatives with body cameras in order to further boost accountability and transparency in the conduct of anti-drug operations.

Gatchalian estimates that it would only cost P60-P140 million to procure body cameras for the PDEA DEOs in active service, depending on the technical specifications of the cameras to be procured. He proposed to source the funds from the budget currently allocated to the PNP for Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, which is now unlikely to be implemented given the President’s directive.

“I still believe in the vision of a drug-free Philippines. However, after the deaths of Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz, and all of the others who have fallen victim to the violence of this drug war, we must step back and reconsider the means being employed to achieve this vision. There is another path which leads to a drug-free Philippines, and it is paved with professionalism, accountability, transparency, and most importantly, respect for human life in all forms. This is the path we must take,” said Gatchalian.