Drug war a success? Let DDB survey show – Lacson
The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) should proceed with its proposed survey to determine the size of the narcotics-using population and get an accurate picture of the drug situation in the country, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said on Thursday.
Lacson called on the DDB to conduct the survey immediately following President Duterte’s statement on Monday that the drug problem in the country had “worsened,” as indicated by recent “shabu” (crystal meth) hauls worth billions of pesos by law enforcers.
Speaking at a news forum in the Senate, Lacson, chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, noted that nobody could say as of now just how many drug users there were in the country. The figures given tend to vary depending on who is speaking, he said.
Duterte’s estimate of the drug-using population is 7 million to 8 million, too high given his figure of 1.3 million at the start of his presidency in 2016, when he launched a brutal war on drugs that has killed thousands of small-time, mostly poor users and pushers.
Data must be accurate
“The Dangerous Drugs Board should immediately conduct [the survey] so that we could have accurate data on illegal drugs,” said Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief.
“One measure to determine if the campaign is succeeding or failing, or if the situation is improving or worsening, is the number of users,” he added.
If the number has gone down, it means the drug situation is not worsening, Lacson said.
Another measure of success of the drug war is the price of illegal drugs, he said.
The survey should also identify the areas with high concentrations of drug users, Lacson said.
P70M for survey
He said there was P70 million for the DDB survey in the P3.8-trillion proposed budget for 2019. The board had requested for funding to gather the data it needed in a “methodical, analytical” survey.
The budget bill has been submitted to the President for his signature.
Lacson said the interception of large shipments of illegal drugs could mean there was progress in the drug war, and not that the situation had deteriorated.
“Maybe our law enforcement has become effective and efficient,” he said.
Duterte’s statement on the drug situation may have been made out of frustration or his perception based on inaccurate data, the senator said.
“To resolve this once and for all, I just hope [the] DDB will immediately conduct the survey,” Lacson said.
The PNP and the lead agency in the war on drugs, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), see the situation differently.
Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde, the PNP chief, said on Wednesday that the recent drug hauls showed international criminal rings had not stopped shipping drugs to the Philippines.
Albayalde, however, said there were gains from the war on drugs, citing “the improvement of peace and order” and falling crime rates.
For the chief of the PDEA, Aaron Aquino, the drug seizures were an indication that the government’s fight against illegal drugs was “very effective.”
Duterte campaigned for Malacañang promising to rid the country of illegal drugs in six months but said after assuming office that he had underestimated the problem and that he would need more time to solve.
He had since said his war on drugs would go on up to the end of his term in 2022 and promised that it would be “harsher” during his last three years.
More than 5,000 killed
According to the PDEA, 5,104 people have been killed since the President launched his war on drugs three years ago. International human rights groups, however, estimate that the real number could be five times higher.
The PNP defends the killings, saying the suspects resisted arrest.
But rights groups say their investigation has shown that most of the dead are victims of extrajudicial killing.
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