SONA 2016: Duterte eyes 'inter-agency committee' vs illegal drugs

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 25, announced the creation of an “inter-agency committee on illegal drugs” that he said would “integrate efforts” and improve the partnerships of stakeholders in his administration’s ongoing war against illegal drugs.

“I put at stake my honor, my life, and the presidency. I repeat: Do not do drugs,” said Duterte during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa. (LIVE: President Duterte's SONA 2016)

A full-blown campaign against illegal drugs, crime, and corruption was among Duterte’s key promises in the 2016 campaign.

To date, the anti-illegal drugs drive led by the Philippine National Police (PNP) has claimed the lives of close to 300 suspects and led to the arrest of over 3,700 suspects.

Duterte, who both read from a prepared speech and spoke off-the-cuff, said the anti-illegal drugs campaign will also “prioritize” the rehabilitation of surrendered drug users and “increase the number of residential treatment.”

Currently, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is the lead agency in government's efforts against illegal drugs. 

According to data from the PNP, over 129,000 drug users and pushers have surrendered to police as of July 24. It’s a figure that’s overwhelmed existing drug rehabilitation facilities of most towns, cities, and provinces around the country.

PNP chief Director Ronald dela Rosa has suggested close monitoring by barangay (village) captains as a temporary fix to the lack of rehabilitation facilities around the country.

Duterte also reaffirmed his “unwavering support” for the police – so long as they do their jobs well. (READ: Duterte to PNP: ‘Do your duty and I will die for you’)

“Abuse your authority and there will be hell to pay,” said the President, who is known for his strong – and sometimes, controversial – views on crime and criminality.

The President had previously said that he would be the first to defend police and other law enforcement personnel should be encounter legal issues in their crusade against crime and illegal drugs.

No less than Solicitor General Jose Calida came to the PNP’s defense days after legislators announced plans to launch a legislative probe into alleged cases of summary killings during anti-illegal drugs police operations.

Duterte also called on the National Police Commission (Napolcom) to hasten its probe into administrative cases of police personnel.

Even before he formally started his term as president, police in some parts of the country had launched “Oplan Tukhang,” where cops knock on the doors of suspected drug users and pushers to convince them to stop.

While some sectors have praised the police for gains in the anti-illegal drugs campaign, they have also been criticized for the apparent rise in extrajudicial killings around the country. – Rappler.com