By: Tonette Orejas - @ttorejasINQInquirer Central Luzon
WHAT WE HAVE CAUGHT IN OUR ANTI-DRUG CAMPAIGN ARE SMALL PUSHERS
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda on Monday asked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Philippine National Police to prioritize the arrest of illegal drug suppliers to stop street-level pushing and to address the overcrowding of jails.
“What we have caught in our antidrug campaign are small pushers,” Pineda said during a meeting at the capitol building with Ismael Fajardo Jr., PDEA Central Luzon director, and Senior Supt. Josel Consulta, Pampanga chief of police.
President Rodrigo Duterte had spoken about cracking down on drug syndicates in the course of his administration’s war on drugs, which had been attacked due to the vigilante-style killings of drug suspects, many of them from poor communities.
In March, Mr. Duterte issued Executive Order No. 15, creating the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), to oversee and synchronize government efforts to combat the proliferation of drugs in the country.
One of its tasks was to oversee anti-illegal drug operations and arrest high-value drug personalities and street-level peddlers and users. ICAD includes the military.
Consulta said police had needed “the cooperation of the community to give us information about the identities of drug personalities.”
So Pineda committed to use more of her office’s intelligence funds, as well as money from her own pockets, to help PDEA and the police refocus the local campaign on suppliers.
While the drive to arrest street-level pushers has made headway, their arrests have more than tripled the number of detainees who were expected to clog the prisons as the justice system rolls so slowly, Pineda argued.
“The problem is that these suspects are all thrown at the provincial jail. They stay longer in jail because hearings are reset when witnesses or complainants among the police do not appear in court,” the governor said.
The provincial government spends around P2 million a month to feed about 2,300 inmates at the provincial jail. At least 70 percent of them have been locked up due to drug cases.
“The money should have been spent instead on education and health. We spend also on conferences but the illegal drug problem is not completely solved,” Pineda complained.