DILG, police: War on drugs needs extension

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) —  More time is needed to win President Rodrigo's Duterte's war on drugs, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Thursday.

At CNN Philippines' Town Hall, DILG Undersecretary for Operations John Castriciones said the country's drug problem is "humongous."

Citing DILG statistics, Castriciones said there are currently one million drug surrenderees; four million people and 34 percent of 42,300 barangays are affected by illegal drugs. Meanwhile, 92 percent of barangays in Metro Manila are affected. 

"The drug business is a multi-billion industry. A lot of the members or players of the drug syndicates are well-placed. They are in the barangays, they are local chief executives, they are judges, prosecutors, congressmen, and probably senators as well," Castriciones said.

Kim Molitas, spokesperson of the PNP-National Capital Region Police Office, agreed that the country has a serious drug problem. She said six months — as originally promised by President Duterte — is not enough to rid the country of illegal drugs.

In Duterte's six months in office, Molitas said the PNP has seized almost P2 billion worth of illegal drugs. But the work doesn't stop there.

"Given the resources we have, we have to maximize whatever it is that we can so we can satisfy the requirement of the president on this war on drugs," Molitas said.

Duterte has repeatedly said in his speeches that he will not stop the drug war "until the last pusher is out of the streets."

Apart from the police's "knock and plead" operations, Castriciones said rehabilitation is another time-consuming aspect of the drug war.

He said there are only 47 rehabilitation centers nationwide, 17 of which are owned by the government. These rehab centers can only accommodate 10,000 patients, Castriciones said.

This does not include the Chinese-backed "mega-rehab" in Nueva Ecija inaugurated by Duterte last November.

As to criticisms that the war on drugs is only waged against the poor, the police and the DILG insisted no one is above the law: the PNP has carried out Oplan Tokhang in affluent areas too.

However, Castriciones said poverty drives more people to use illegal drugs.

"When you're addicted, how do you sustain it? You don't have a job, you don't have a profession, you don't have an income. So what do you do? The easiest way is by means of pushing — and that is a fact. Most of those users are actually pushers. And sadly most of these users are poor people," Castriciones said.

Collateral damage

Duterte's drug war has killed almost 6,000 individuals since June, according to PNP data. The president himself has said the loss of innocent lives is unavoidable in the drug war.

Both Castriciones and Molitas said the government is doing its best to help the drug war's "collateral damage" - innocent victims and the family of those killed.

Castriciones said the PNP and the military have also suffered blows in the war on drugs: They have lost 225 personnel since it started in June.

"We assure the public all these deaths are under investigation. We want to make sure justice is given to all the families of the victims, regardless if they were killed by vigilantes or our own police officers," Molitas said.

Winning the war

Castriciones said claiming victory in the drug war is "a matter of perspective."

He said the government's goal is to "protect the interest of the majority of Filipinos."

"The people seem to be contented with [the war on drugs.] As you can see, there is no opposition to it...The president is still, at this point in time, very popular," he said.