Press Release
July 13, 2015


Speech on Drug Trafficking
During the 111th CBCP Plenary Assembly
July 12, 2015

My heartfelt gratitude to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for the invitation extended me to talk on "Drug Trafficking in the Philippines".

First, our definitions - of drugs and trafficking.

Under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, RA 9165, "dangerous drugs" are those which are listed in the so-called Schedules annexed to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and in the Schedules annexed to the 1971 Single Convention on Psychotropic Substances. It is highly technical. For ordinary usage, "drug trafficking" has been defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as a global illicit trade involving cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. "Illegal trafficking" is understood in our land and laws as the illegal cultivation, culture, delivery, administration, dispensation, manufacture, sale, trading, transportation, distribution, importation, exportation and possession of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical.

Based on the definition of illegal trafficking mentioned here, the activities sought to be prohibited are all encompassing, from cultivation or manufacture, to sale and distribution, of the illegal drug itself or its precursor substances or ingredients.

Second, what is the profile of our vulnerabilities? These consist of our archipelagic geography, our laws, their enforcement, prosecution, rendition of judgment and incarceration. In all these stages and situations, we face challenges to our effort to root out illegal drugs.

Our geography.

According to a study conducted by the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime,

"...the Philippines is at the cross road between the Asian drug-producing and exporting countries and the Pacific drug-dependent countries. It is therefore strategically located making it vulnerable to transnational criminal corporations primarily as a transit point and at the same time a market for drugs. Apart from this is the archipelagic condition of the Philippines which is composed of many islands and islets scattered south of Taiwan and north of Borneo and Indonesia thereby creating a very long and broken coastlines around the archipelago. It is therefore very difficult and even very expensive to effectively patrol these coastlines rendering them virtually unguarded making it vulnerable to drug trafficking and smuggling."

Thus, geographically speaking, drug problem in the country may seem very challenging to solve. But this does not mean that we will give in and just rest our cases. I have proposed the activation of the Barangay Anti Drug Abuse Council to help address this situation. My thesis, there is a barangay in every island, therefore, a watchdog in each.

What can we say about our laws?

We can rightfully say that our laws are strict and mete out the highest penalty of life imprisonment, except the death penalty. Our attention was focused for a few days solely on the death penalty in Indonesia in illegal drug trafficking when our Mary Jane Veloso almost paid the ultimate sacrifice for being charged of being a drug mule. Miracle of miracles, she escaped alive by way of Presidential intervention, both here and in Indonesia. But her case is far from closed. The wheels of justice in Indonesia continue to grind and the suspense builds up again. They have the death penalty, we do not.

What are our numbers and profiles of drug cases? Data culled from operations for enforcement, prosecution and judgment under our drug laws leave much to be desired. Based on the 2014 Annual Report of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), consistent with the previous years' observations, shabu and marijuana remain the most abused illegal drugs in the Philippines. 89% of the year's arrests are shabu-related; -8.86% covered the confiscation of marijuana; -cocaine, ecstacy, ephedrine, "fly-high" and others constitute the 2.36% of the drug-related arrests.

What are the latest trends and prospects?

As to the drug trafficking trends, the PDEA reported that there is an increasing number of incidence of transporting illegal drugs via mail and parcel services. PDEA Dir. Gen. Cacdac said that drug traffickers choose to move illegal drugs covertly, yet rapidly through mail since detection is much lower due to anonymity and use of fictitious names to mislead authorities. Furthermore, utilization of various materials like sandals, milk boxes and electronic devices to conceal illegal drugs was also noted.

Males dominate the number of arrested drug personalities. Out of the 13,792 drug personalities arrested for the year, 11,950 or 87% are males. Of the 13,792, 60% were arrested for selling or distributing illegal drugs. Most of the arrested drug personalities fall within the age bracket of 30-39.

For 2014, a total of 181 minors were rescued in 161 anti-drug operations. Of the 181, 50% were apprehended for the possession of illegal drugs and 37% were selling or dispensing illegal drugs.

A total of 16,939 total anti-drug operations were conducted by PDEA nationwide. These operations resulted in the arrest of 13, 792 drug personalities (10% of which were identified as high-value targets (HVTs)) and resulted in the seizure of Php 6.18 billion worth of illegal drugs.

Our age of criminal responsibility is 18 years old and above. Legally-guided drug syndicates use below 18 youth as conduits, sellers and couriers. Thus, our below 18 illegal-drugs offenders continue to inhabit our streets, sidewalks and center islands sniffing their favorite inhalants with their paraphernalia for all the motoring world to see. 2014 was somehow record-breaking because it was last year that PDEA arrested a six (6) year old, the youngest minor apprehended for being involved in illegal drug activities since RA 9165 took effect more than a decade ago.

Moreover, for 2014, a total of 114 drug dens were dismantled, representing a 37.35% increase in the their number compared to the preceding year's data.

An aggregate of 17,619 drug cases were filed in various courts nationwide for the year 2014. The highest number of cases filed is in Calabarzon and the lowest is in ARMM. As of 2014, 3,301 cases were already resolved - 636 conviction; 903 dismissal and 1,762 acquittal.

Out of 42,065 barangays in the country, 20.52% are considered drug-affected (mostly in urban areas). A barangay is said to be drug-affected when there is a determined existence of drug user, pusher, manufacturer, marijuana cultivator or other drug personality regardless of number in the area. He further added that the National Capital Region (NCR) has the highest rate of affectation with 92.10% of the region's barangays affected, followed by Region 4A or CALABARZON at 33.78%.

The illegal drugs trade in the Philippines had followed the laws of economics. Sell cheaper and you get more buyers. Clusters of informal settler communities provided a haven for users and drug dealers due to the difficulty of navigating their alleys if you are a law-enforcer running after your suspect.

The table shown in the slide presents the number of marijuana plantation sites that were eradicated from 2002 until 2014. It may be observed that relatively, there is an increasing trend in the number of plantation sites that were eliminated by PDEA, with the help of other law enforcement agencies. This data may be interpreted as a good indication that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has been truly effective in its fight against dangerous drugs. Moreover, when I was Chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board from 2008 to 2009, we successfully implemented the alternative development program for marijuana plantations such as Sericulture in the municipalities of Kibungan and Bakun in Benguet and abaca production in Balamban, Cebu.

As for shabu, the data in the slide presentation shows the annual shabu seizure in kilogram from 2002-2014. As opposed to the marijuana, it can be interpreted that with shabu seizure the trend is declining. It may be by reason of the effective and successful drug operations conducted by PDEA that the manufacturing of shabu has been somehow put into a halt.

We also have here a comparative analysis of some data gathered from PDEA Annual Reports from 2011-2014.

2011 2012 2013 2014 Operations conducted 12,269 24, 030 11, 474 16, 939 Drug personalities arrested 10, 636 10, 159 9, 162 13, 792 Cases filed 12, 627 12, 534 10, 502 17, 619

There was a slight decline in 2012, as compared to 2011, relative to the drug personalities arrested and cases filed. PDEA was able to bounce back in its enforcement mandate when its operations doubled. Likewise, there has been a decrease in all the three categories in 2013, but PDEA had exerted more efforts to perform better in 2014, and the same is evident based on the table shown in the slide presentation.

We are also confronted with constant innovation of illegal drugs in the country. Drug traffickers never run out of ideas on how they will consummate their illicit actions. Inventing new drugs to circumvent the law is one of the ingenious ways that just recently stemmed out of the market. It was in 2013 when the first "fly high", a mixture of shabu, ecstasy and Viagra, was seized. More cases were recorded in 2014, a total of 1,130 pieces of "fly high" in tablet form and 29.9044 grams in powder form were seized.

The year 2014 set another record as the PDEA was able to document its first incident of seizure of 1,2-Dimethyl-3- Phenylaziridine, or Aziridine, in the country. During the same year, the investigation of PDEA resulted in the discovery of a new mode of payment used in importing ecstasy in The Netherlands by using "bitcoins." Bitcoin is a digital or virtual currency that uses online technology to facilitate instant payments. With the transaction being done by just a "point and click" without risking the identity of the user, syndicates and terrorists exploit the system for their illegal transactions.

According to the 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report of the US Department of State, the lack of legislation authorizing wiretapping for drug cases and the lack of reform in the criminal justice system will continue to hamper efforts against international drug trafficking organizations from exploiting the Philippines as a transshipment point and market of illegal drugs.

In fact, to further strengthen the country's battle against illegal drugs, we have filed several bills in the Senate during the current Congress. We have recently passed a law amending the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, particularly the provision relative to the Custody and Disposition of Confiscated, Seized and/or Surrendered Dangerous Drugs, Plant Sources of Dangerous Drugs, Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals, Instruments/Paraphernalia and/or Laboratory Equipment. It was authored by yours truly in order to provide effective measure to further ensure the integrity of seized illegal drugs and thereby reducing the incidents of dismissal of drug cases due to technicalities. As presented earlier, for 2014, 3,301 cases were already resolved - 636 conviction; 903 dismissal and 1,762 acquittal. It may be deduced from those figures that only 19% of the cases filed were successfully prosecuted. One factor affecting its success is relative to the chain of custody of the seized illegal drugs; hence, the said amendment.

But aside from all these, it is never enough to just focus on enforcement and prosecution. The fight against drugs will never be won if we do not concentrate on Prevention and Rehabilitation. Even if we collect and destroy all the illegal and dangerous drugs in the country today, as long as there are drug dependents, there will be drug abuse. We must prevent the new 13 year olds from falling into drugs, and we must rehabilitate those who are already addicted. The bottomline is, "the day we stop buying, is the day they stop selling".

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