Senate plans realignment of P900M in drug war funds
With the changing of the guard in President Duterte’s war on drugs, the senators are considering realigning the P900-million budget the Philippine National Police is asking for the campaign for 2018.
“There will definitely be a realignment of the P900 million,” said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, vice chair of the committee on finance and sponsor of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) budget in a text message on Thursday.
Bigger budget for PDEA
Lacson also said Mr. Duterte’s directive appointing the PDEA as the sole agency that would carry out his campaign against illegal drugs would ensure the swift adoption on the floor and on the conference committee of his amendment doubling the agency’s budget to give it more teeth.
He said the PDEA budget was increased from P1.2 billion to P2.59 billion in the Senate version of the 2018 budget bill to fund the creation of 81 provincial and five Metro Manila district offices, purchase of additional vehicles and hiring of additional personnel.
“[These] were among the items in their original shopping list but which was dropped by the Department of Budget and Management and not included in the National Expenditure Program and the House version of the General Appropriations Bill,” Lacson said.
Sen. Loren Legarda, finance committee chair, hinted on Wednesday night that the PNP might entirely or partially lose its drug war budget as the panel reviewed the allocation.
“We will see and rationalize the P900-million budget—how much is intended for the upkeep of police stations, for guns and buy-bust operations,” Legarda told reporters.
“We will remove what is unnecessary and we will realign it to other agencies or other line items of the budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG),” she added.
During floor deliberations on the DILG’s budget, representatives of the agency and the PNP told the senators that they were amenable in scrapping the “Tokhang Drop Box” following a plea from Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
“I strongly suggest that the DILG eliminate the drop boxes from its antidrugs campaign. It will only be prone to malice and abuse, and could even lead to unnecessary deaths,” Hontiveros said on the floor.
Under the DILG’s community-based “Masa Masid” program, villages, municipalities and cities were directed to set up drop boxes to allow the public to anonymously report alleged drug dependents, peddlers and other criminals.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said on Thursday that a big portion of the P900-million fund could be used to augment the PDEA’s budget and the excess could be realigned to support housing and social services.
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