MANILA (UPDATE) - Unscrupulous cops recycle illegal drugs seized during narcotics operations, the head of an agency tasked to lead President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs said Monday, in a stunning admission that could again put doubts on the credibility of the government's drug war.
Several sources have confirmed that unscrupulous anti-narcotics agents use the seized illegal drugs to either sell them or use them as planted evidence in bogus operations, said Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino.
“There are still reports [of recycling of illegal drugs]… It’s still rampant, especially [among] operatives down [the line],” Aquino told senators during his agency’s budget hearing.
“Ang usually nagiging modus, maybe half of that will be surrendered, iyon ang ipapalabas na na-seize, the other one will be kept, either for future operations [or be sold],” he added.
(The usual modus is, maybe half of that will be surrendered and be presented as the seized drugs, the other one will be kept, either for future operations or be sold.)
He said some P22 billion worth of seized illegal drugs, P20 billion of which are shabu, remain in the government’s inventory.
Aquino also revealed that a “drug queen”, who is behind the buying of seized drugs from unscrupulous law enforcement agents, is now the subject of the PDEA’s operations.
Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon, who brought up the issue on the pilferage of seized illegal drugs, said Aquino’s revelation was worrisome and a “serious bipartisan concern.”
“I admire your candor, Director General Aquino, but it causes a concern, because the people who are given the task of solving our enforcing the law in so far as drug trafficking is concerned are the ones who lead the anomalous practices,” Drilon said.
Aquino blamed the courts’ slow issuance of orders to destroy seized drugs for the buildup of the government’s seized drugs inventory. He noted that the oldest illegal drugs in the government’s custody is 9 years old.
Drilon said he is willing to help the PDEA press the judiciary to act swiftly on requests to sanction the destruction of seized illegal drugs.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, meanwhile, challenged Aquino to present proof on his claims, as he sought to defend the efforts of the Philippine National Police (PNP), an agency he once led, in ridding its ranks of bad eggs.
“In fairness to the PNP, it is doing its best to rid all the scalawags,” Dela Rosa said.
“Mahirap puro candor pero wala tayong leg to stand on sa ganoong accusation.”
(It's hard that you have candor but your accusation has no leg to stand on.)
LOSING THE WAR
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who presided over budget hearing for the PDEA and the Dangerous Drugs Board, said the revelation shows that the government could be losing the war on drugs.
“In spite of so many accomplishments, battles may be won, but are we winning the war?” Lacson told reporters after the hearing.
“Apparently we are not winning the war because even the President in his latest SONA (State of the Nation Address), he said the problem of illegal drugs still persists. That’s a tacit admission we are not winning the war.”
Lacson said anti-narcotics officials should be required to wear body cameras during anti-narcotics operations so they would be deterred from pilfering seized illegal drugs.
Dela Rosa, known for making colorful comments, for his part said police should just immediately dump seized illegal drugs in the drainage.
“Why not gawin na lang natin on the spot pagkahuli ng shabu d'yan, kunan ng sample, hanap ka kaagad ng drainage, ibuhos ang shabu doon, tapos na wala ng problema, o kaya itapon na sa dagat?” he said.
(Why not after the seizure we just take a sample of the drugs and drain the rest or throw them into the sea?)
Aquino said requiring joint operations from various law enforcement agencies is one way of deterring the pilferage of seized illegal drugs. He also recommended an intensified internal cleansing among law enforcement agencies.
The government’s war on drugs has been heavily criticized for the mounting death toll linked to various anti-narcotics operations. But critics say some of the slain suspects, mostly poor ones, were killed in cold blood.
The PNP said 5,526 drug suspects were killed from July 1, 2016 until June 30.
The government routinely dismisses any criticism of the drug war, saying there is a presumption of regularity in all police operations.