Drug-related arrests involving gov't officials, employees, increasing - PDEA

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Methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu remains the most prevalent illegal drug in the Philippines.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – Aside from detained former drug enforcement agent Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, several other public officials and law enforcers have been arrested on drug charges in the past, including a vice mayor and former mayor, police officers and members of the armed forces.

Based on data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), a total of 623 government officials and employees were nabbed in anti-drug operations from 2011 to 2015.

PDEA's data also showed, the number grew sixfold in just five years, from 29 in 2011 to 201 in 2015.

In 2015, at least one public servant was caught with illegal drugs every two days.

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The rising number of drug-related arrests of people in the government has alarmed the PDEA that in 2015, it sought help from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in going after government officials and employees involved in illegal drug use and trade. 

PDEA is the agency mandated by law to lead the fight against illegal drugs.

Marcelino’s case

Among law enforcers allegedly linked to illegal drug trade, what sets Marcelino apart is not only his rank in the Philippine Navy but also his former position as a director of the PDEA Special Enforcement Service.

Also read: Marcelino: PDEA chief behind my arrest

Marcelino was busted in a drug raid along with a Chinese national on January 21.

Authorities yielded P320 million of shabu from the operation.

Also read: No proof ex-PDEA official on legitimate operations during drug raid — PNP

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In the Philippines, shabu remains the most prevalent illegal drug. It was seized in 9 in 10 arrests conducted by the PDEA in 2014.

Who else has been caught with drugs?

In October 2013, former mayor and then incumbent Camarines Sur vice mayor Andre Hidalgo was arrested after he was caught allegedly sniffing methamphetamine hydrochloride, more commonly known as shabu.

Hidalgo is among the 186 elected officials apprehended on drug charges from 2011 to 2015.

During the same period, authorities also nabbed fellow law enforcers in one in four arrests.

In May 2015, Zamboanga City police arrested Ronnel Macaraeg of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in a buy-bust operation.

Aside from Ramirez, authorities also busted members of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), among others.

Meanwhile, employees from various government agencies accounted to majority or 45 percent of all drug-related arrests of those in public service.

What happens to those arrested?

When government officials themselves succumb to drug use, they do not only damage the public’s trust and confidence. They also endanger the country’s anti-drug abuse campaign.

Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 mandates the government to "pursue an intensive and unrelenting campaign against the trafficking and use of dangerous drugs and other similar substances.”

Under the law, government officials and employees found guilty of the importation, sale, manufacture, use, and/or possession of dangerous drugs and similar substances shall be permanently disqualified from holding public office.

Erring government officials or employees could be subjected to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of up to P10 million.