PH drug war to focus on clearing barangays – authorities

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) — The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is targeting to wipe out illegal drugs from more than 6,000 barangays by the end of the year.

As the war on drugs enters its second year, PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña says the country's leading anti-drug enforcement law agency is "concentrating" on its goal of reducing the number of drug-affected barangays by 30 percent annually.

"Our main strategy is the barangay drug clearing program... We will be concentrating on this," Lapeña told CNN Philippines' The Source in an episode that aired on Monday.

"We are giving a target of 30 percent of the affected barangays on a yearly basis," he added.

PDEA has said between "47 to 49 percent" or about 20,598 of the Philippines' 42,036 barangays are still "affected" by drugs.

PDEA's target goal entails clearing around 6,179 by the end of 2017. Of the remaining 14, 419 barangays, the agency hopes to clear another 30 percent — approximately 4,326 — by the end of 2018.

He noted if they meet this target, they would reduce the affected barangays in "four [or] five years time."

Under this calculation, there will be around 3,461 remaining drug-affected barangays from the initial 20,598 by the time President Rodrigo Duterte leaves office in 2022.

According to PDEA, the presence of even one user automatically includes the community in their count of affected barangays.

Duterte claimed on March 23 that 40 percent of the country's barangay captains were involved in illegal drugs.

PDEA denies "no big fish" in drug war caught

Lapeña also said they were working on catching "drug lords on the higher echelons" of syndicates, but he could not disclose the details of their operations.

"We will also be intensifying our campaign against the high value targets, and [we will] do high impact operations," he said.

When asked if authorities had caught such high-value suspects, Lapeña said: "Yung big fish na nasa listahan ng drug syndicate na Filipino, sa ngayon wala pa [Of the big fish who are Filipino on the drug syndicate list, none yet]. But we are working on them."

The PDEA chief said Chinese "higher level" personalities, including chemists and suppliers, were in their custody.

"Yung mga Chinese na nahuhuli sa mga drug syndicates, these are big fish. Matataas na mga tao rin yan. Ito'y nasampahan ng mga kaso na. Yung iba, during the operation, they (were) armed, they fought back, they were killed," said Lapeña.

[Translation: The Chinese from drug syndicates that we catch, these are big fish. They're from the higher echelons too. Cases have been filed against them. As for the others, during the operation, they (were) armed, they fought back, they were killed.]

According to Lapeña, the biggest drug personality authorities caught so far has been Mico Tan, who was pinned to behind the establishment of shabu laboratories in Cavite and Quezon City.

However, Tan was shot dead during a police operation in Valenzuela City on July 22 last year.

Since the drug war was launched, the government closed down nine clandestine drug laboratories — including two mega facilities, he said. PDEA earlier reported that up to ₱12 billion (US$252 million) worth of shabu has been confiscated by authorities in the campaign against drugs.

According to PDEA, 64,397 anti-drug operations have been carried out, resulting in 86,984 arrests and over 1.3 million surrenders.

Duterte's controversial war on drugs has seen over 3,000 deaths in police operations alone based on authorities' count. Human rights watchdogs, estimate over 9,000 alleged drug war-related deaths.