Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency adopts 3-pronged strategy in war on drugs

Aaron B. Aquino

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has adopted a three-pronged strategy in its continuing war on drugs: supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction, PDEA chair Director General Aaron N. Aquino said yesterday.

“Cognizant of the rapidly changing landscape of the drug problem in the country, integrated and holistic approaches must be employed to achieve a maximum impact to be felt by the Filipino citizenry,” Aquino said.

He explained that their Supply Reduction Approach involves disrupting the manufacturing and distribution supply chain of dangerous drugs through law enforcement.

Besides suppressing the supply of illegal drugs, among the priority programs PDEA is currently undertaking to bring the approach to fruition include the following measures: enhancing local and international cooperation, coordination and law enforcement operations; addressing new drug trafficking trends; strengthening of anti-corruption measures; controlling precursors and amphetamine-type stimulants and preventing illegal sale and diversion; targeting clandestine manufacture of drugs; controlled delivery; countering money-laundering; promotion of judicial cooperation, strengthening research, data collection, and assessment tools, among others.  

The PDEA chief said that these supply-reduction efforts are pursuant to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation Towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem.

Aquino said that the second prong of the strategy is the Demand Reduction Approach, which reduces or prevents people from wanting to take illegal drugs based on scientific evidence and the fundamentals of freedom, dignity and human rights targeting vulnerable groups, and through mainstreaming of community involvement and participation.

The official said that  to complement the robust drug law enforcement efforts of the government, PDEA continues to lessen the drug dependence problem by providing anti-drug education and information to the public to enable them to make informed decisions about drugs.

“Alongside raising drug awareness, PDEA, through the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), ensures the treatment of drug users either in residential and community-based rehabilitation centers. After treatment, reformers will undergo the social rehabilitation phase. This will provide them employment opportunities and (help them) regain their dignity and place in our society,” Aquino said.         

“Communities must take collective action in fighting the drug menace. Continued development at the grassroots level will help alleviate poverty, promotes economic prospects resulting in people’s engagement in meaningful social structures. These proved useful in addressing the root cause of drug use,” he added.

The third part of the new PDEA tact is the Harm Reduction Approach which is associated with interventions that reduce the acute impacts of drug use. These impacts are likely to be social or economic harms such as crime of desire, corruption, over-incarceration, violence, stigmatization, marginalization or harassment, among others, according to Aquino.         

“This promising approach is a welcome addition to the traditional supply and demand reduction strategy of the government. We are grounded on the reality that many people are finding it difficult to stop engaging in illegal drug activities. That is why we aspire to target each impact of the drug problem,” he said.

In the course of liberating people from the clutches of the drug menace, PDEA aims to encourage positive change in the lives of people who became dependent on illegal drug activities, mitigate the harms of drug laws and policies, and offer alternatives that seek to prevent or end drug dependency, the retired official added.

According to the official,  PDEA’s efforts are underway to soften the impacts by implementing harm-reduction programs such as voluntary surrender of drug offenders under “Barangay Drug Clearing Program”, support to plea bargaining agreement, and extensive nationwide implementation of “Balay Silangan Program”, “Project: Sagip Batang Solvent”, and “Drug-Free Workplace Program”.