As sole authority to conduct anti-illegal drugs operations

TACLOBAN CITY- With President Rodrigo Duterte directing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as the sole agency to carry out operations against illegal drugs in the country, an official of the anti-drug agency in the region said that they need additional personnel to carry out such mission.
Rogelette Urgel, PDEA’s regional spokesperson, said that their current strength is not enough for them to carry out anti-drug operations across the region, composed of six provinces and seven cities.
Urgel, however, said that they welcome the order of Mr. Duterte, issued on October 10, as it is the mandate of PDEA to address the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country.
“Of course we welcome this directive of the President. However, our campaign may be hampered due to lack of personnel,” Urgel said.
“For us to cover the entire region, perhaps we need an additional 100 agents,” she added.
At present, PDEA-8 has about 100 personnel which is headed by Regional Director Edgar Jubay.
She also said that while the President now gave PDEA the sole authority to conduct anti-drug operations, they would continue to work closely with the Philippine National Police (PNP), which earlier played a significant role in the anti-drug campaign.
She, however, stressed that the police organization could not conduct any anti-drug operations without the consent or coordination with their agency.
The campaign to eliminate illegal drugs in the country under the administration of Pres. Duterte has turned out to be controversial due to reported extrajudicial killings which now runs to close to 3,000 as claimed by the administration’s critics, to include human rights groups.
The huge number is being contested by the Philippine National Police.
In the region, lawyer Desiree Pontejos, officer-in-charge of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said that they have monitored 36 so-called extrajudicial killings across the region.
These killings include that of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., who was gunned down inside his cell at the Leyte subprovincial jail in Baybay City on November 4, 2016 by members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and Angelika Bonita, 18.
Urgel said that aside from giving PDEA additional personnel, they also need cooperation from the people in the communities.
Meantime, Urgel said that out of the 4,390 barangays in the region, more than 350 of them have been declared as ‘drug-cleared’ by their office.
She also said that the towns of General MacArthur, Maslog, both in Eastern Samar; Limasawa in Southern Leyte; Pagsanghan and Motiong, both in Samar, have been declared as drug-cleared.
By drug-cleared it means absence of a drug supplier in a particular area though there could still be drug dependents, Urgel said.