'We are winning': PDEA counters Duterte on 'worsening' drug situation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 28) — The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is singing a different tune from President Rodrigo Duterte on the drug situation in the country.

While Duterte said the drug problem in the country has "worsened," PDEA chief Dir. Gen. Aaron Aquino told CNN Philippines' The Source that the war against drugs is being won.

"We are winning the war. Based on our arrest, 'yung [the] surrenders, 'yung [the] clearing ng barangays, 'yung [of villages, the] number of mga conduct of operations, 'yung mga [the] high value targets at 'yung mga [and the] high-impact operations," Aquino said Thursday.

He said Duterte may just be having the impression that the drug situation has worsened because of the drug agency's intensified operations against drugs, which had let them seized billions of pesos worth of drugs.

"Normal 'yun na magkaroon ng impression. Kahit ako eh, nung nakita ko bilyun-bilyon na, 'yung unang impression ko, 'Parang lumalala na ata.' Eh kasi nung unang panahon may naririnig ka bang ganyan na bilyon? Wala eh," Aquino said.

[Translation: It's normal to have that impression. Even I, when I saw that billions of pesos of drugs, that was my first impression, 'It looks like things are getting worse.' Because back in the day, have you ever heard of billions of pesos drugs? None.]

Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, a former police chief, said there is no evidence to back up Duterte's claim that the drug situation is worsening and that he only based his opinion on his own perception.

"We all know the President, kung anong perception or mood niya at the time 'di talaga siya nagtatago. Each time mayroon siyang naiisip nilalabas niya ito pero hindi nga backed by solid proof na ang kanyang sinabi ay 'yan na nga talaga 'yan," Lacson said during the weekly Kapihan sa Senado forum.

[Translation: We all know the President, he won't hide whatever his perception or mood is at the time. Each time he thinks of something, he will say it, but what he is saying is not backed by proof.]

The senator said the Dangerous Drugs Board has been given a ₱70-million budget to find out how many drug users and pushers there are in the country, as officials, including Duterte, cite different figures.

Authorities seized ₱1.13 billion worth of shabu during a raid in the upscale Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City last March 19. Three days after, the PDEA and the Bureau of Customs intercepted a ₱1.8 billion shabu shipment at the Port of Manila.

Aquino said drugs that would be seized in the future may even reach trillions of pesos.

But Duterte lamented that billions of pesos worth of shabu flood the country on a certain day to divert attention from an even larger drug shipment.

Government data shows that authorities have seized ₱29.29 billion worth of illegal drugs from July 1, 2016 until February 28, 2019. They have arrested 176,021 drug personalities and have killed 5,281 drug personalities during drug operations.

On the campaign trail, Duterte had promised to eradicate the drug problem in three to six months, but later admitted that this is not possible. He has said that policemen are "at the bring of surrendering."

CNN Philippines Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.