Manila, June 30, 2003 By Perseus Echeminada And Non Alquitran (Star)  The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is a "toothless tiger" due to the lack of funds and resources, House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla said yesterday.

Philippine National Police chief Director General Hermogenes Ebdane, on the other hand, said that only the PNP anti-illegal drugs special operations task force will be authorized to conduct anti-drug operations under the guidance of the PDEA.

"All other PNP units outside of the (task force are directed) to desist from pro-active anti-illegal drugs operations," he said.

Ebdane said this directive was issued "to address the problems and complaints of sectors on potential planting of evidence as well as to avoid any unnecessary mix-up in operations on the ground."

He also said that should illegal drugs be seized or suspected drug users, pushers or traffickers be arrested in the course of any police operation, they should be immediately turned over to the task force, which is headed by PNP Deputy Director General Edgardo Aglipay.

While Padilla lauded President Arroyo’s move to give PDEA back its lead role in the government’s anti-drug campaign, he expressed concern over the measly P100-million budget given to the anti-drug body for 2003.

"PDEA is (an anti-drug) superbody. It has enormous power given by law, but because of lack of funds it has become a toothless tiger. It cannot bite big-time drug lords," he told The STAR in a telephone interview.

The opposition leader said that in "the fight against illegal drugs, the President should rely on the PDEA and provide it with the necessary support to make it a real fighting tiger."

Padilla said that of the P100 million allocated to the PDEA for 2003, only P50 million has been released.

The President earlier promised P1 billion for the anti-drug campaign, but it is not clear how the fund will be allocated.

Padilla urged Mrs. Arroyo to provide the PDEA with much-needed funds and equipment to enable the anti-drug superbody to perform its mandate.

He added that the President was right when she eased out former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim from the anti-drug campaign, since his aborted appointment has caused confusion and infighting among government officials.

Padilla also said that the President’s obsession with creating ad hoc superbodies has gotten her administration into deep trouble in the past.

"How many ad hoc bodies have come and gone without making any real result?" he asked.

Padilla said that while the creation of these superbodies can grab headlines and generate publicity, it is best for the President to put her faith in the line agencies.

Earlier, the PDEA reported that a total of 15,718 people were arrested on drug-related charges in the Philippines from July 30, 2002 to June 28 this year.

The PDEA said it had apprehended 8,881 suspected drug users, 6,803 suspected pushers as well as drug cultivators and importers since July 30 last year.

It did not provide comparative figures for the previous period.

Among those arrested were 19 Chinese nationals, four Americans, three Taiwanese, three Pakistanis, and two Indonesians, the PDEA statement said.

Also arrested were one national each from Australia, Britain, South Korea, Germany, Brazil, Israel, Japan and Jordan.

More than P4.6 billion in illegal drugs, chemicals and equipment for drug manufacture were also seized during the period, the PDEA said.

This includes marijuana leaves and seeds, cocaine, ecstasy tablets and methamphetamine hydrochloride, popularly known as shabu.

The PDEA said that in August, it busted one of 11 transnational drug syndicates operating in the Philippines and the ringleader was deported to Japan.

Thirty-seven of some 215 local drug rings have also been "neutralized" since July 30, the PDEA added.

Meanwhile, Aglipay, who heads the PNP’s anti-drug task force, vowed to confront the worsening drug problem in the country head-on, without fear or favor.

"Even my children and close relatives will be hauled off to jail once found violating the anti-drugs law. (This will) serve as a warning to others that we mean business in the fight against illegal drugs," he said. He has four children.

In a recent briefing conducted at Malacañang, Aglipay said the challenge for the task force is "to confront the illegal drug menace head-on, without fear or favor."

"We are going to make a difference," he said, adding that he and the members of the PNP anti-drug task force are personally committed to make the anti-drug campaign work.

Aglipay advised "influence peddlers" to get the best lawyers and contest the case in court.

"Walang arbor-arbor ng kaso dito," he said, referring to cases wherein drug users, pushers or traffickers "get off the hook" because of the pressure exerted by people of influence.

Aglipay said that the days of corrupt policemen using their authority to plant evidence on or mulct money from people they apprehend on suspicion of violating the anti-drugs law are over.

All policemen going on anti-drugs operations will have to have a pre-operation report detailing the target and the areas to be raided, he said.

Aglipay admitted that the anti-drug campaign cannot succeed without the cooperation of the public, particularly the parents.

"I am calling on our fellow Filipinos, particularly the parents, to (educate) the youth on the evils of illegal drugs," he said.

The PNP anti-drug task force chief urged parents to closely monitor their children’s activities.

"We should guide our children before we wake up one morning and realize that they are into drugs," he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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