Duterte's 7-8 million drug user figure meant to ''challenge'' law enforcement bodies
The country’s law enforcement agencies on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest pronouncement of seven to eight million illegal drug users are only meant to “challenge” them to go after them.
Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman, said in a media forum: "we take it as a decision-making tool for us to assess our performance and take it as a challenge for us to do more and conduct more operations against illegal drugs especially on the criminal syndicates." .
Though they have yet to verify the number, Banac said Duterte has “unlimited sources of information” which is why he was able to say it in a speech.
“We know for a fact that the President has a wide access of information. He has unlimited sources of intelligence so the President came up with this estimate," said Banac.
"We subscribed to that estimate because the number goes down and goes up every now and then... The estimate could be attributed to the number of users from the past to present because we know that a number is still unaccounted for," he added.
For his part, National Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said “estimates are estimates”.
Lavin added that Duterte is a very good “tactician and strategist” and he may have increased the number to challenge the law enforcement.
“He want the law enforcement to do more. So we take it as challenge and we don’t take it is bad note,” he said.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said the number encouraged them to review their anti-drug operations.
"We need to reassess and recalibrate all actions because this will incorporate rehabilitation, not just pure law enforcement," PDEA spokesman Derrick Carreon said.
"It was mentioned that with the increased effort, the number of persons arrested, the surrenderrers... there is really a possibility that the figure would increase..." he explained.
Based on their latest data, a total of 170, 689 drug personalities were arrested in 119,841 operations conducted since the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016.
Of the 42,044 barangays in the country, 11,080 were cleared of illegal drugs by authorities.
On Duterte's order of “harsher” anti-drug operation, the PNP said it only means they will pursue more high-value targets and big drug syndicates.
“More law enforcement, less killing,” said Banac. Ella Dionisio/DMS