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Drug situation worsening? 2 agencies don’t disagree but…

MANILA, Philippines — The two law enforcement agencies fighting the war on drugs do not disagree with President Rodrigo Duterte’s assessment that the drug situation has worsened, but they have their own interpretation of what the Chief Executive’s statement means.

In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Gen. Oscar Albayalde, the Philippine National Police chief, said the President’s assessment was “a big challenge [for] us.”

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“It’s not actually a surrender, but a frustration that despite our efforts, there is still a massive volume of drugs in the country,” Albayalde said.

Unceasing drug traffic

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International drug syndicates have not stopped bringing narcotics into the country, Albayalde said, citing the recent interception of “shabu” (crystal meth) worth P1.8 million at the Port of Manila.

Albayalde, however, insisted there were gains from the drug war, citing “the improvement of peace and order,” and dropping crime rates.

For the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the  worsening drug problem is just a “perception” brought about by bigger and more numerous operations.

“With the recent billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs seized by [the] PDEA and other law enforcement agencies, the President’s and even the ordinary people’s impression that the [drug situation is] worsening is [actually] normal,” PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said in a statement on Wednesday.

“From the point of view of [the] PDEA, the billions of peso seizures of illegal drugs is a positive indicator that the government is very effective in carrying out its war against illegal drugs,” he said.

“What is important is that authorities are able to prevent these illegal drugs from flooding our streets,” Aquino said.

Suppliers, too

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The PDEA also belied criticisms that the drug war targeted the poor only, underscoring recent operations that led to the arrest of suppliers operating from plush apartments in exclusive residential subdivisions, and the pursuit of narcopoliticians and errant policemen.

Earlier, Aquino said the PDEA had actors, judges, prosecutors and journalists on its  watch list.

During a news conference on Wednesday, PDEA spokesperson Derrick Carreon debunked criticisms that the drug war coddled Chinese drug lords, given the Duterte administration’s pivot to China.

“If we look at our data, 60 percent of our foreign nationals arrested are Chinese,” Carreon said.

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