COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2017 - 12:00am

Under fire for alleged extra-judicial killings of drug suspects, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is not about to relent on their focused campaign against illegal drugs all around the country. Instead of being held back by criticisms from various human rights advocate groups here and abroad, the PNP has stepped up the ante to meet the goal of their Commander-in-chief to suppress the illegal drugs problem of the country.

President Duterte claimed there are now four million drug addicts in the Philippines. By extrapolation, the President cited these figures were based on the estimate of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that there were at least 3.7 million Filipinos who were addicted to shabu and other narcotic substances.

The President frequently quotes this figure from two or three years ago data as reported to him by former PDEA chief, retired General Dionisio Santiago as his source of information. Santiago served as PDEA chief from 2006 to 2011.

Much earlier, President Duterte admitted he made a “mis-calculation” on the gravity of illegal drugs situation in the Philippines. He rode high during the presidential campaign that he can nip the drug addiction problem in six-month period. But when he finally assumed office, the President realized the problem has gone far worse than he knew. So he asked for an extension of his self-imposed deadline for another six months.

But lately in all his public speeches, President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly vows to continue with his administration’s deadly war against illegal drugs for as long as he is in office. His term ends in June 2022.
Citing the President’s unrelenting war against illegal drugs, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde announced at least 450,000 drug pushers and users are being targeted for neutralization under his command this year.

To accomplish their goal, NCRPO chief said they would double their effort in Operation Tokhang, which calls for knocking on the doors of drug pushers and users and urging them to submit themselves peacefully to authorities. “We will ask them first to surrender. But when they resist arrest or engaged us in an encounter, it would be another story,” Albayalde said.

The NCRPO chief was our first guest at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay for this new year resuming after the Christmas holidays at Café Adriatico in Malate. During our breakfast forum the other day, Director Albayalde declared their target goal for the NCRPO is based on the official results of the on going anti-drug campaign showing the country’s national capital region account for a huge chunk of drug personalities netted by law enforcement authorities.

While he credits the arrests to heightened police operations, Albayalde expressed his great appreciation to public vigilance as the key factor for the success of President Duterte’s war against illegal drugs. “We get much of the intelligence information from tips of concerned citizens about the presence of drug personalities in their barangays or report to us about suspicious characters in their neighborhood,” Albayalde cited.

There is a downside to this success, however. Albayalde echoed the concern of jail congestion as a major problem now that hampers the anti-drug war of the Duterte administration. While they are maybe inmates, the NCRPO chief deplored the present congestion in jails, many of them have to sleep standing up.

It is not only a security issue, he admitted, but also a health issue because of deaths in some cases of inmates getting serious illnesses while in jail. A case in point, he noted, is the Metro Manila District Jail (MMDJ) that houses 1,900 inmates in their jail facility designed only to accommodate 200 warm bodies.
The NCRPO chief is also reviving the call for improvement in the recruitment process to improve on quality not on quantity of Police Officers 1. For this year, the PNP has 10,000 slots for new recruits. He reiterated the request of the PNP to place the training of police officers under them. At present, police officers are being trained under the watch of the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC), also an attached agency of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Albayalde disclosed the PNP leadership will make these formal recommendations to President Duterte on ways to further improve the illegal drug campaign when they meet with their Commander-in-chief during the traditional New Year’s call of the entire PNP command led by their Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

From July 1, 2016 to Jan. 4, the PNP Project Double Barrel Alpha recorded that 2,174 drug pushers and users were killed after trying to put up a fight during police anti-illegal drug operations. The PNP said 43,414 drug personalities were arrested in 40,557 anti-drug operations in almost six months of the Duterte administration. Police reported that 1,017,375 drug personalities, including 75,099 pushers and 942,276 users surrendered after 5,998,848 operations in Project Tokhang.
The PNP records showed 21 policemen were killed and 60 others were wounded while conducting police anti-drug operations nationwide cumulatively from the post-operations reports submitted by police regional offices.

The PNP accounted for the arrest of 70 percent of 1.8 million personalities in its drug watch list in the official records of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB). The PDEA is the enforcement arm of the DDB. Aside from the PNP and PDEA, other law enforcement agencies such as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Customs also account for some of the biggest drug busts chalked up in the past six months.

“We are victorious in drugs war, 70 percent. We did it, 70 percent of 1.8 million is 1,260,000, ngayon (now) 1.3 million na,” PNP chief Dela Rosa calculated. He hastily clarified that the 1.8 million figure being used by the PNP is based on DDB records culled in 2010, or only half the number of addicts as claimed by President Duterte.

Of course, because this was not the “mis-calculation” that President Duterte refers to. But the big question mark remains: Where are the “big fish” in the war against illegal drugs? The tough-talking President retorted: “Daing na.” (They are dried fishes already). Or is this another presidential “mis-calculation” of the illegal drugs problem in the country?