MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) asked senators on Monday, September 25, to approve its budget increase of P934 million so it can keep up with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the war on drugs.
The increase was highlighted when the Senate finance committee quizzed PDEA officials on their role in the drug war.
During the exchange, former PDEA chief and current Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Dionisio Santiago said he wished PDEA could do more, since it is the agency mandated to lead the country's anti-narcotics efforts.
"I have been hearing from our own Senator [Risa] Hontiveros that PDEA should be in charge of the anti-drug campaign. For your information, madam, RA 9165 is very specific, PDEA is in charge of the law enforcement function," Santiago pointed out.
But he lamented that "it is easier said than done" because PDEA has "limited manpower."
Current PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said they only have 1,041 operatives nationwide to coordinate with more than 190,000 cops for anti-drug operations.
According to Aquino, this problem can be traced to PDEA's P1.44-billion budget. They have requested an additional P934 million for 2018, which includes money to hire and train 1,605 more operatives.
In comparison, the PNP's total proposed budget for 2018 is P131.5 billion, a P20-billion increase from its 2017 budget. Out of that figure, more than P900 million is being budgeted for the drug war. (READ: Hontiveros wants P900-million PNP drug war budget dissolved for other projects)
Recalling President Rodrigo Duterte's idea to put back PDEA at the helm of the war on drugs, Aquino said, "At this time, we cannot realize this kind of proposal."
He said that with PDEA's current state, it still needs the PNP to take charge.
Senate finance committee vice chairman Panfilo Lacson said they support PDEA, but with the agency's request just recently added, its officials will have to defend their request at the plenary level, in front of all senators. (READ: Slides and Ladders: Understand the budget process) – Rappler.com