Quezon City, June 21, 2003 President Arroyo yesterday unveiled four strategic priorities in the fight against the proliferation of illegal drugs with "big fish" as her main target.

Arroyo enumerated the priorities in a speech following an inspection tour of the Batasan Hills National High School in Quezon City.

These are: make drugs more inaccessible and more expensive through a steady attrition in drug supply lines; concentrate on areas with the highest drug trafficking intensity; expose the big fish at the highest levels possible, with police and government patrons as a high priority; and stop drug use before it starts at the most vulnerable age levels through the combined efforts of homes, communities, schools and civil society.

"Everyone must be on board. This is a fight of the Filipino people. We have the will and the numbers to bring this menace to its knees," she said.

Sen. Robert Barbers said the government must start the execution of those convicted in drug-related offenses to show that it is really serious in fighting the menace.

He said the Supreme Court has already affirmed the death sentence on 10 of 41 convicts with drug-related offenses.

He said seven convicts were put to death since 1999 but not one of them is a drug offender.

"Kaya malakas ang loob ng mga sindikato sa droga ay dahil wala pang binitay sa kaso ng violation ng Dangerous Drugs Act," Barbers said.

The Department of Justice assailed a recent report by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency that state prosecutors should be blamed for the low conviction rate in drug cases.

The report said out of 12,381 drug cases filed last year, the state prosecutors only effected the conviction of 35 cases.

Jovencito Zuņo, chief state prosecutor, said the dismissal of some cases can be attributed to technical lapses by the arresting officers.

"If you go over decisions of the courts, the reasons for the acquittal are technical like the manner of arrest and the manner they implemented the search warrants," he said.

Zuņo also said the success for a conviction of a drug case depends on evidence presented in court.

He said it is the responsibility of the arresting officers and not the prosecutors to produce competent evidence.

"Hindi naman sa amin yung depekto. Kung anong ebidensya ang ibigay sa amin eh hanggang doon na lang kami," he said.

At least 940 immigration personnel yesterday submitted themselves to drug tests.

Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo said those found positive would be dismissed if they refuse to undergo drug rehabilitation.

Deputy Director General Reynaldo Velasco, NCRPO chief, told the Manila Bay Breakfast Club forum at the Casino Espaņol that they have tapped barangay tanods, security guards and parents teachers associations in the campaign against illegal drugs. (With Cheloy Garafil, Raymond Africa and Jim Bilasano)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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