PDEA chief: ‘I value life’
CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga — Incoming Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general, Aaron Aquino, said he would instill a high regard for life among the agency’s 2,000 personnel, especially in the course of the government’s antidrug operations.
Aquino said drug users and pushers who surrender or are arrested should be given a chance to reform, a lesson he drew from his just-concluded stint as Central Luzon police chief.
About 140,000 drug users and pushers surrendered during his 15-month term here and 17,700 of them underwent rehabilitation or reformation programs. During the same period, 6,993 police operations led to the arrest of 10,550 suspects and the prosecution of 6,913 cases.
“The best of the best practices I have was the creation
of the Bahay Pagbabago reformation centers. Again, I’m sending this message to everyone that I value life and that’s the reason we created this kind of program,” Aquino said on Friday, five
days ahead of his retirement on Sept. 6 after 35 years of service.
“There are many success stories [among drug users and pushers]. Some have found jobs abroad. Many are employed locally. They have resumed supporting their families. Many have kicked the habit and I hope for good,” said Aquino, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985.
He said the progress charted by 152 reformation centers in the region was due to the cooperation of government agencies, local governments, communities and families.
According to Aquino, Bahay Pagbabago complements the rehabilitation program of the Department of Health.
“I will push this [value for life in the PDEA]. It should not only be implemented in Central Luzon. It should be replicated nationwide. It’s not only the police that should have the responsibility to help. All of us should help because this is a social problem. It’s our problem,” he said.
Deaths took place under Aquino’s watch, many of these in Bulacan province, which he attributed to vigilantes as well as gunfights that erupted when the police issued search warrants and undertook drug busts.
Aquino said President Duterte had nothing to resolve as to whether PDEA or the Philippine National Police should take the lead role in the war on drugs.
“It seems that I was misunderstood by the media when I said that I hoped PDEA would be the sole unit that would be conducting operations against illegal drugs in the future. What I mean is—and that actually is my vision—that the time will come when the PNP will now focus on its anticrime campaign,” he said.
“The biggest contributor to the illegal drug campaign’s accomplishments is still the PNP. We still need the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and all other law enforcement agencies,” he said.
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