Editorial: ‘All lenses, not just law enforcement’

SINCE 2002, the Dangerous Drugs Board took leadership role among other agencies and stakeholders in strategizing the war against illegal drugs. It established the National Anti-Drug Strategy (Nads) and pushed for a three-pronged approach: supply and demand reduction; development/reform package; and people empowerment campaign. The objectives were clear, the works backed by hard scientific data and was time-bound—to be reviewed in 2010. To operationalize the national campaign, the DDB outlined the tasks of every agency involved in the campaign through the National Anti-Drug Program of Action (Nadpa).

The DDB committed “to provide an integrated, comprehensive, unified and balanced national drug abuse prevention and control strategy” against illegal drugs. Since the enactment of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (RA9165), the DDB noted a significant decline in the number of drug users. There were 6.7 million drug users in estimate in 2004; the figures dropped to 1.7 million in 2008. In 2012, there were an estimated 1.3 million drug users.

In the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad) conference on Nov. 8, 2019, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) pegged the number of drug users at four million, although it said it was mere projection.

After the first version of the anti-drug policy ended in 2012, the DDB and its partner agencies did a thorough review to pave the way for a new action plan and came out with Nadpa 2015-2020. In its report, the board said: “The war against drugs is no longer merely a law enforcement concern. The Board has recognized that the development and dissemination of drug prevention programs and activities have increasingly become essential in dealing with this problem as these measures make the people aware of the lure of dangerous drugs and other addictive substances.”

The report identified one of the weak points in the campaign: Local government units were lukewarm in implementing anti-drug programs and there was little funding to see through rehabilitation and reintegration programs.

On March 16, 2017, the fight against illegal drugs took a different turn. Although integrating Nadpa 2015-2020, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 15, creating the Icad, which placed the PDEA at the center of the drug war. This tilted the intended balance among approaches towards enforcement with PDEA at the helm.

It is in this light that we see Vice President (VP) Leni Robredo’s recently released report following her brief stint as Icad co-chair. Essentially, what the VP wants is a data-driven approach to the drug war and no other agency has been more informed than the DDB. Thus, in her report, she recommends an amendment to EO 15, putting the DDB on top of the Icad.

A review is nothing but timely since the current Nadpa expires this year. If government itself admits it is having a hard time winning the drug war, its strategy is therefore worth examining.