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#RealNumbers: The truth behind the headlines

MANILA (Philippines News Agency)– Media hype over the so-called, “extra judicial killings” (EJK) has earned President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration a slew of criticism both locally and internationally.

While most of the headlines center on the rising body count as a result of the government’s anti-illegal hard drugs campaign, it seems that no one is reporting on the real score and that the campaign is more than just about eliminating the problem but also about finding a lasting solution.

With the illegal drug trade ballooning to a PHP120-billion industry, it was not until President Duterte put his foot down and declared an unprecedented, relentless campaign to go after the entire illegal drugs apparatus that the magnitude and severity of the drug menace was fully revealed.

The fight against illegal drugs was the foundation for then Mayor Duterte’s presidential campaign and it was the first things on his to-do list when he assumed office almost a year ago.

So daunting, the President’s campaign promise that soon after he was elected in May 2016, the killing spree of known drug dependents and pushers immediately begun.

A few weeks after he assumed office, Duterte had revealed a list of names of top Philippine National Police (PNP) officials allegedly involved in illegal hard drugs. Soon after, followed what is now known as the “drug matrix” where allegedly, top ranking government officials, police, military, legislators, local and barangay officials were named, giving credence to his claim that the country has now become a “narco state.”

Critics have frowned upon and questioned the validity of the “drug matrix” and have since been vocal about their distaste for the seemingly limitless power the President has given the PNP to carry out anti-illegal drugs operations.

Though the PNP admits to incurring casualties on both sides, some media entities continue to report on figures that do not reflect what is truly happening on the ground.

The war on illegal drugs is not all about the arrest, capture, prosecution and the breaking of the backbone of the industry. It is also about treatment, rehabilitation and re-integration of reformed addicts into society to prevent them from going back into hard drugs.

It is also about providing adequate treatment facilities, teaching patients new and productive skills for livelihood.

This is the aim of #RealNumbersPH forum — to present the facts and actual figures of not only the damage brought about by illegal drugs.

Led by the Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO), the PNP, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the forum gathered organizations in support of the anti-illegal drugs campaign as well as members of the media to present not only the numbers but what government and the private sector are doing to heal not only the users and pushers, but the entire country as well.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar declared, “The illegal drug trade has met its match, notably, the political will and unwavering resolve of our President and his relentless mission to divert our country from the dangerous trajectory of becoming a narco state.The concept of a narco-state is unacceptable to us and the next generation. In both economic and social terms, we cannot allow a menace to society to dictate our nation’s destiny.”

As the lead agency in the anti-illegal drugs campaign, PDEA chief, Director General Isidro Lapenas presented an overview of PDEA programs and operations. “The status quo is not acceptable. We need to do something now,” Lapenas said.

Police Deputy Director Ramon Apolinario acknowledged that the illegal drug menace is a major concern and that a more determined implementation is needed. The forum also provides the perfect opportunity to present accurate information as far as the anti-illegal drugs campaign is concerned.

Not all the presenters of the #RealNumbersPH are from the government. Rev. Fr. Carmelo Diola, Executive Director of the “LaBang” (Lahat Bangon) has been in the humane side of the anti-illegal drugs campaign since 2001.

Fr. Diola and the Labang Foundation has been helping former drug dependents through a community-based, holistic and structured recovery program which is faith-impelled and evidence based.

Fr. Diola believes the a sense of structure must be restored in an individual because that is the first thing that goes when a person gets hooked on illegal drugs.

”I’m very grateful for ‘tokhang’ outside of some excesses because this opportunity may not come again in our lifetime. I know because I’ve been there for 16 years,” Fr. Diola acknowledged.

PDir Camilo Pancratius Cascolan—Director for Operations reported that focus crimes like robbery, physical injuries, carnapping, have decreased as a direct result of the anti-illegal drugs campaign. Rape has been reduced by as much as 45 percent from the period of July to December 2016.

On the part of the DOH, Health Secretary Pauline G. Ubial, revealed that there are a total of 48 accredited drug abuse treatment facilities in the country of which 17 are government-run and 31 are private facilities. The total capacity of these 48 facilities amount to 12,000 beds.

Ubial also mentioned that there is a process by which patients are admitted into a treatment facility. A patient will be assessed as to whether treatment may be done as an outpatient or eligible for admission.

”We embark on this as a nation with great cost and that is why it is critical to move forward with a mindset of change. We must implement the necessary reforms to ensure the PNP is rid of scalawags and corrupt elements. We must work together to develop a world-class police force with the competence necessary to win the war on illegal drugs.”

”It is time to implement reforms in our criminal justice system. The success of this war will depend on efficient and effective law enforcement that is balanced in the protection of human rights.”

“Last but not the least, the Filipino must become a committed citizen engaged in discussions such as these and we must realize that we are not each other’s enemies but rather, we are partners in defeating one foe—the illegal hard drug trade and its apparatus. We need the media as our partners who will not only help us get the real numbers out there but also keep us in check, holding us accountable for our actions,” Andanar concluded. (AAA/PNA)

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