P10.41-B illegal drugs seized in 2023 — Palace

P10.41-B illegal drugs seized in 2023 — Palace

ILLEGAL drugs worth over P10.41 billion were confiscated last year in over 44,000 law enforcement operations, the Palace said on Thursday as it touted the over 27,000 barangays cleared of the deadly vice through the Marcos administration’s “holistic” approach.

A total of 56,495 suspects were arrested in 44,000 anti-illegal drug operations last year, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said in a statement, citing data from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Last year, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. vowed to shift the focus of the government’s anti-drugs program to rehabilitation.

It was his response to calls for accountability following his predecessor’s bloody war on drugs that resulted in the killing of thousands of suspects in supposed police operations gone awry, but are under investigation as alleged extrajudicial killings.

The numbers have since dropped but as of June 30, 2023, a year into Mr. Marcos’ term, a total of 342 had been killed by state actors in connection with illegal drugs, according to a report from Dahas Project, an initiative of the University of the Philippines’ Third World Studies Center.

“This is higher than the 302 reported in the last year of the Duterte administration,” it said.

The PCO said 50 provinces now have functional Anti-Drug Abuse Councils, adding that the government has put up 74 in-patient treatment and rehabilitation facilities across the country.

“The recent government successes was under President Marcos’s new approach to address illegal drugs by focusing on rehabilitation, reintegration, and preventive education programs specifically for the youth,” it said.

Last September, the President called for a “whole-of-nation approach” in dealing with illegal drugs, noting that “drug dependence is a serious mental health condition.”

“If left untreated, it becomes a growing social problem and a significant public health issue,” he said at the time.

The government estimates that at least 6,117 people were killed in Mr. Duterte’s drug war between July 1, 2016 and May 31, 2022, but human rights groups say the death toll could be as high as 30,000.

In March, Mr. Marcos, who ran in tandem with Mr. Duterte’s daughter in last year’s presidential race, said the Philippines was disengaging with the International Criminal Court (ICC) after its rejection of the country’s appeal to suspend its investigation of the drug war under the previous administration.

The ICC investigation covers crimes committed in Davao City from November 2011 to June 2016 when Mr. Duterte was still its mayor, as well as cases during his presidency up until March 16, 2019, the day before the Philippines officially withdrew from the court’s Rome Statute.

Under the Marcos administration, the Dangerous Drugs Board would continue to implement the Barangay Drug Clearing Program, with the goal of making all villages in the Philippines free from illegal drugs by 2028, the PCO said.

It said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency is also intensifying its efforts against top-level drug personalities, “not only by arresting them but also by strengthening financial investigation to immobilize their assets.”

It said the administration targets to reduce the target-listed drug personalities by 10% of the annual target list by June, 2028.

It wants to achieve a 1:1 ratio of established treatment and rehabilitation facilities per province by 2028, it added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza