August 15, 2020 (5:26 PM)

6 min read


DRUG ACTS. Philippine National Police (PNP) Region XI Police Colonel Rainier Diaz presents data on drug situations throughout the region amid the COVID-19 pandemic in an FB live on “Did Coronavirus Stop Drugs?: A Virtual Pakighinabi on the State of Illicit Drugs During the Pandemic”, August 14. Screenshot by Jeni Anne Rosario

Despite the 38 percent decrease in the estimated value of confiscated illegal drugs, Philippine National Police (PNP) Region XI Police Colonel Rainier Diaz claimed that the coronavirus did not stop illegal drug activities, “yet the pandemic alleviates the drug trade and drug use and ironically contributes to war against illegal drugs.”

“Overall, despite the fact that this Office intensified its campaign on OPLAN Double Barrel to eradicate illegal drug activities in the Region under this pandemic, the activities did not stop. However, it can be observed that there is a significant decrease on the number of arrested persons, cases filed in court, and the volume and the estimated value of confiscated/recovered illegal drugs,” he stated.

Acting Chief of Regional Operation and Management Division Diaz presented data implying the decrease of cases and provided drug situations throughout the Region during a virtual Pakighinabi entitled “Did Coronavirus Stop Drugs?” via Zoom and Facebook Live yesterday.

Members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and Commission of Human Rights (CHR), doctors and health workers from respective hospitals, and social workers had also participated in the said event.

The event aimed to update and further discuss its insights regarding the state of illicit drugs during the pandemic.

Decreased volume of confiscated drugs – PNP’s data

Based on the comparative data between the pre-pandemic Oct 2019 to Feb 2020 and the current March 2020 to July 2020 pandemic occurrence, the total number of operations conducted counted by 689, an 18 percent decrease to the former 843 total number of operations.

This includes a 13 percent decrease (1,135 to 987) on the total number of arrested people, and a 4 percent decrease (1,049 to 1,010) on the total number of filed cases in relation to illicit use of drugs.

Moreover, Police Colonel Diaz stated that despite the health protocols and the intensified implementation of border control checkpoints, “the presence and activities of these drug personalities involved were actively perceived in the Davao Region.”

He noted that cases of drug confiscation through the anti-illegal drug operations were mostly concentrated in Davao City and Tagum, Davao del Norte.

The PNP also stated a 48 percent and 93 percent decrease of volume of confiscated illegal drugs, specifically shabu and marijuana, respectively.

The police shared that even though drug activities and cases have decreased because of international border closure or complete lockdown, the economic difficulties may affect the people with economic disadvantages and may resort to involvement in drug activities. 

“[The economic difficulty brought by the pandemic] could lead to an increase in the number of people resorting to illicit activities linked to drugs in order to make a living (production, transport, etc.) and/or being recruited into drug trafficking operations,” Diaz said.

Challenges for police and social workers

The police and social workers agreed that the pandemic challenged them in providing efforts to ensure the safety of the community.

Diaz shared that because of the anti-illegal drug operations, the custodial facilities became congested, fearing that it may lead to rapid spread of the virus. He then recommended further construction of additional custodial facilities to observe physical distancing.

“Mahirap naman na halu-haluin. Baka yung bagong nahuli ay positive so baka magkakahawaan doon, [and once] mahawaan doon [at] magspread ang virus, our PNP personnel will also be affected. Makakaroon ito ng domino effect and it will disrupt the police services in a particular police station,” he explained.

The Police Colonel also shared that exposure of PNP anti-illegal drug operatives to COVID-19 and unfamiliarity of PNP personnels to the said virus are also challenges that they currently face.

Meanwhile, Grace P. Montecillo, a Center Against Illegal Drugs (CAID) member and a social worker, shared that with health protocols monitoring clients in barangays would be a challenge to social workers, sharing that some clients might not have phones or might not have sufficient money to buy load for calls and messages.

Montecillo also noted that social workers who are currently doing in-field work for barangays may have risks of exposure to the said virus.

“There are cases that social workers have to meet their clients in person. With this, social workers are exposed to the risk of coronavirus, especially if the barangay they are working with has positive cases,” she explained.

EJK still present despite fewer reports – CHR Lawyer

Atty. Janer Sanchez, from the Legal and Investigation Unit of Commission on Human Rights Region XI, highlighted that they have recorded few cases and complaints of illegal arrests, buy-bust operations, and extrajudicial killing due to illegal drugs during the pandemic, pointing that the records were 32 percent lower than last year.

With this, he emphasized that despite the decrease of cases, extrajudicial killing is still prevalent with the said drug campaign.

“Did coronavirus stop illegal drugs? We cannot validly answer that. But if the question is did the coronavirus stop EJK? Then we can say that no, it has not stopped but it has significantly lessened the reported cases,” Sanchez said.

Ritz Lee III, Balaod Mindanao’s Director reminded that human rights violations are still significant aside from the pandemic that had resulted in lower cases of drug acts.

“Aside from the actual extrajudicial killings happening during the pandemic, we are still waiting for justice for the thousands of persons killed, tortured, [illegally] arrested and detained in the previous years, and it is still a human rights violation,” Lee shared.

The Director also shared that dictators and human rights violators are maximizing the pandemic to continue in violating human rights, stating that people “should be very wary [of] our leaders to exploit this crisis to serve their political ends.”

At the end of his statement, he emphasized that humanizing the anti-drug campaign can lead to just and long-term results.

“I hope that it is not too late to reflect and revisit our campaign [against] illegal drugs. Humanizing this program, I strongly believe, would lead to far-reaching implication of combatting the issues of illegal drugs,” he said.

End the silence of the gagged!

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