Arroyo names self anti-narcotics ‘czar’
To lead 3-pronged strategy vs illegal drugs
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has appointed herself as the “czar” that would lead the government in a three-pronged strategy to fight illegal drugs, as she ordered all agencies to stop their bickering and “look for victories.”
The President said the government would fight the drug menace from three fronts — law enforcement, judicial action, and policy-making — calling the campaign a “trinity against illegal drugs.”
During a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the President approved several recommendations by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) that included:
• random drug testing in all secondary and tertiary schools;
• drafting an integrated manual of operations for law; enforcement agencies
• reviewing operational procedures during entrapment and buy-bust operations;
• setting up an agency dedicated solely to rehabilitating drug dependents;
• detailing solicitors from the Office of the Solicitor General with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for case build-up;
• activating anti-drug abuse councils in local governments and;
• granting of development projects to local governments that were maintaining “drug-free zones.”
“I will temporarily act as the czar, or overseer of the war against illegal drugs. Then, I will turn over the job to the tandem of Tito Sotto and Jionex Santiago,” Arroyo said in a statement she read during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting in Malacañang.
Arroyo was referring to Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Vicente Sotto III and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Dionisio Santiago.
The President’s move means that “the full presidential powers will be utilized in the war against drugs,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said.
Sotto said the President formed an independent body to investigate the bribery allegations at the DOJ and the PDEA for the release of three alleged high-profile drug dealers — Richard Brodett, Jorge Joseph, and Joseph Tecson.
Arroyo will step down as anti-illegal drugs czar on January 27 or 15 days after the independent body submits its final report to her, Sotto said, adding the composition of the panel will be known within the week.
The President said the case of the three drug suspects, scions of prominent families, who allegedly supplied ecstasy and cocaine to upscale Metro Manila nightclubs “should jolt us into action” with “resoluteness and grit.”
“A country awash with illegal drugs is a country compromised, its law and order institutions tainted and corrupted. It is in this tragic context that the government should map its all-out war, an unyielding and unrelenting war against illegal drugs and their devil merchants,” she said.
“The war shall be waged from three fronts, a trinity against illegal drugs,” she said.
Five officials from the DOJ, including undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor and Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, went on leave because of their alleged links to bribe attempts on PDEA agents.
Along with other state prosecutors, the officials on leave have also demanded their PDEA counterparts to do the same, but Malacañang and PDEA itself have said that there was no need for the anti-narcotics agents to do so.
During the meeting with DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez and PDEA chief Santiago, the President called on “all those who are in this controversy to start working together and look for victories,” Dureza said.
Quoting from initial results of a 2008 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey commissioned by the government, Sotto said there were close to one million drug dependents in the country, 9 out of 10 males, mostly single and unemployed, reside in urban areas, and have an average monthly income of P14,980.
The random drug tests will be handled with “great sensitivity,” Dureza said. The government also reviewed Supreme Court decisions on the matter to ensure that the tests would not violate human rights, Sotto said.
Sotto said the government would need to construct six to eight rehabilitation centers in four regions. There are 66 rehabilitation
centers at present.
He said the DDB would take over rehabilitation centers, previously being managed by the Department of Health (DOH).
View article as posted on INQUIRER.net