Govt challenges UN report, calls for data review
The Philippines ranked No. 1 in Southeast Asia as the country with the most number of drug users based on the 2008 World Drug report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), however, is not convinced about the finding.
Based on the UN report, prevalence of amphetamine abuse in the Philippines was found to be at 6 percent of the population aged 15 to 64 years old. Amphetamine is a “racemic compound or one of its derivatives [as dextroamphetamine or methamphetamine] frequently abused as a stimulant of the central nervous system but used clinically especially as the sulfate or hydrochloride salt to treat hyperactive children and the symptoms of narcolepsy and as a short-term appetite suppressant in dieting.”
The number for the Philippines is far greater than that of second-placed Thailand with 0.8 percent, followed by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, or Laos with 0.7 percent, Cambodia with 0.6 percent and Myanmar and Vietnam each with 0.2 percent.
The report said that from the 20,000 drug users in the Philippines in 1972, the number climbed up to 6.7 million in 2004, meaning that one in every 29 Filipinos aged 10 to 44 was on drugs.
It added that the preferred illegal substances of Filipinos were methampethamine hydrochloride, popularly called “shabu,” and marijuana.
The UN report, however, was disputed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief, Dionisio Santiago, who on Thursday said there could be some errors in the data submitted to the UN by the Philippines’ Dangerous Drugs Board and which were made as basis of the report.
Santiago announced that he would commission an independent research group to conduct a new survey in order to correct the alleged errors contained in the data that the drugs board had given to the United Nations.
The alleged errors, he said, could have arisen from the UN report concluding that 6 percent of Filipinos aged 15 to 64 were drug abusers, when that number could have wrongfully included those who have tested and tried illegal drugs only once.
Santiago branded the UN report as unfair because, he said, comparing the population of the Philippines (around 90 million) with that of China (more than one billion), chances are there were more users in China than in the Philippines.
Push for death penalty
He raised the need to reimpose the death penalty even only on those individuals who would be proved guilty of drug trafficking.
Sen. Francis Escudero is stopping short of meting out capital punishment to the traffickers and their supposed backers in high places.
Instead, he batted for identifying and seeking the prosecution of government lawyers who may have become protectors of drug rings.
Toward that end, Escudero said, the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which he heads, would review heinous-crime cases, the hiring and firing of prosecutors, the rules on inhibition and the track records of prosecutors on drug cases filed and dismissed. The review, he added, will start once Congress resumes its session on January 19.
It is not far-fetched, according to the senator, that the case of Colombia, where drug syndicates have men in the judiciary, is already happening in the Philippines. He did not elaborate.
“We used to have a ‘Hanging Judge.’ Now, we could have a ‘Fiscal Dismissal,’” Escudero said, referring to one who seems to just love meting out the death penalty and to one who would be found by the review to be just throwing out cases for favors.
He expressed concern that government prosecutors looked to be siding with the three suspected drug pushers known as the “Alabang Boys” against men of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency that had entrapped the suspects in September 2008.
“If the PDEA spot report is correct, I see nothing wrong in the entrapment, the arrest and the filing of complaint against the ‘Alabang Boys,’” Escudero said.
He added that if there was anything wrong, it was the agency’s “premature” leak to media of the P50-million bribery attempt to free the three suspects—Richard Santos Brodett, Jorge Jordana Joseph and Joseph Ramirez Tecson, all from rich families.
Escudero, though, noted that there has been no proof that the bribery was ever attempted. Also, he said that based on his personal knowledge of Santiago’s character, the chief is not one who would succumb to bribery.
“But the real issue is not bribery. It is the criminal-justice system,” he said.
— Jefferson Antiporda Reporter with Efren L. Danao, Manila Times