By FRANCO G. REGALA
QUEZON CITY (PhilAmPress) – Almost four years ago, he was met with a mountain of challenges after having been appointed as Director General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Last June 30, 2016, Arturo Cacdac Jr, CESE, a former top rank Philippine National Police (PNP) official, left the agency with a “happy heart” as it was marked with a whole bunch of achievements not many perhaps know of.
Despite earning some enemies in people, even former PDEA employees involved in drugs and perhaps growing some ivory white hairs over the years, Cacdac has bravely faced the challenges of not only fulfilling the President’s mandate to suppress the supply of dangerous drugs in the country, but as well reforming the organization and its people, placing PDEA to a higher level of credibility and competence.
“I am leaving with a happy heart. Everything i learned when I was in the police has been applied here [in PDEA]. In the three years and eight months that i served, there were a lot of reforms made within the agency and we have suppressed supply of dangerous drugs based on the volume of drugs we have seized over the last years, which is the President’s marching order,” said Cacdac.,
“Our vision 2020 is to make PDEA a highly credible and competent agency. We strive to be a credible agency because it matters that people put their trust in us. I will leave an agency that has been recognized as Best Agency for Performance-Based Bonus for three consecutive years — 2013, 2014 and 2015,” he added.
Gen. Cacdac‘s stay in office was not all sunshine and smooth sailing as threats and challenges were huge not only from the outside world but even from within the organization that he manages. Among his major challenges were the involvement of some of the agency’s personnel in drug dealings and transactions which sometimes affect drug operations, and dropping them from the rolls. There was also a backlash from past PDEA personnel who have had pending court cases in connection with drug transactions, and from drug syndicates who use their resources to lure those vulnerable personnel.
Although the job has been difficult and risky at times, Cacdac believes that the sacrifice he has made was all worth it especially for the agency that he served. “Back in 2012, I was ready to leave the government after serving 38 years in the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and the Philippine National Police [PNP]. But when President [Aquino] told me to prepare for another role at the PDEA, I gladly said yes. I thanked the President for the honour to serve, and to God, for my safety.”
He said his absence from the agency now allows him to make time for his wife, who has waited so long for an overdue travel to India to materialize. “My wife has been fascinated with Buddhism and her dream is to visit a Buddist temple in India.”
Although a new leadership is now at the helm of PDEA, let’s look back at some of PDEA’s achievement under Cacdac’s watch, which has made President Aquino proud of placing him as head of one of the controversial agencies. President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to prioritize the agency since his primary objective is to address drugs and criminality.
Aquino’s marching order: Suppress supply of dangerous drugs
When he assumed his role as director general of the PDEA on October 18, 2012,Cacdac said President Aquino’s marching order was to suppress the supply of dangerous drugs on the top level. This means the agency’s task is to locate shabu laboratories and potential smuggling sites, and ensure the eradication of marijuana plantation sites in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
Anchored on the instruction of the President “to intensify efforts against the source of drugs to make it unaffordable to the public,” PDEA focused on the conduct of high-impact operations and arrest of high-value targets. For the last three years under his leadership, the agency was able to seize volumes of shabu [in kilograms] in different locations. From 2013 to 2015, it seized 837 kilos, 718 kilos and 595 kilos of shabu, respectively. As of June 24 this year, it already took hold 879 kilos of shabu, making it a banner year for the agency.
Together with other law enforcement agencies [OLEAs], PDEA was also able to apprehend 81 foreign nationals, with the Chinese nationals dominating the roll at 36 or 44.44 percent, followed by Korean with 6, Nigerian and Taiwanese, 5 and Sudanese, 4. Most of the foreign nationals arrested were from dismantled clandestine laboratories wherein bulk volume of drugs was seized. Of the 1, 018 kilos of shabu seized from them, 731.34 were from Chinese nationals, according to a PDEA report.
The agency has also arrested public officials, government employees and even PDEA personnel involved in the proliferation of drugs. Of the 412 arrested public servants for the same period, 86 are personnel of law enforcement units [LEUs], 142 are elected officials: 1 provincial board member, 5 municipal councilors, 1 vice mayor, 25 barangay chairmen and 110 barangay councilors, while 184 are employees.
During the three year and eight months, the agency was also able to rescue 111 minors aged 6 to 17 years old. They have been returned to their respective local Social Welfare Offices for disposition, said Cacdac.
In coordination with seaport and airport authorities, PDEA has also intensified interdiction operations in identified critical routes, entry and exit points to prevent smuggling and trafficking of illegal drugs. As a result, authorities were able to intercept incoming shipments of illegal drugs in 109 interdiction operations nationwide that resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs worth P833.3 million.
Although its prevalence is very minimal in the country, the agency was also able to seize a total of 69 kilos of cocaine inside a container van in Davao City in 2014.
In the same year, PDEA also recorded a significant increase in the total seizure of Ecstasy at 3, 399 tablets. The dangerous drugs reportedly came from the Netherlands through mail and parcel services.
PDEA in collaboration with OLEAs also eradicated 1, 114 marijuana plantation sites and confiscated of 3, 607, 465 pieces of marijuana plants; 1,299,980 pieces of marijuana seedlings and 3, 085, 570 grams of other marijuana products worth P1.26 billion. The operations covered an estimated land area of 85.38 hectares where the majority of plants were uprooted in the CAR.
Since 2012, PDEA in partnership with OLEAs conducted a total 17, 082 drug operations nationwide. It also destroyed P8.28 billion worth of drugs. The Total value of confiscated drugs and non-drug evidence since has reached P13.25 billion while the number of high-powered firearms seized from priority drug groups and drug personalities nationwide totaled to 832.
PDEA has also issued 44, 008 licenses and 83, 616 permits to qualified and authorized handlers of dangerous drugs and Controlled Precursors and Essential Chemicals [CPECs].
Among other accomplishments are the establishment of forensic laboratories in all the PDEA Regional Offices; referred 45 drug cases involving 79 drug personalities to Anti-Money Laundering COuncil (AMLC) for the conduct of final investigation; and caused the freezing of several assets in cash and vehicles; revived the PDEA News Letter “PDEA Drug Buster”; acquired 31 motor vehicles and 17 motorcycles; facilitated the amendment of Section 21 of RA 9165, strengthening the witness requirement system for the conduct of inventory and seized evidence, and the authorization of PDEA to file application for Search Warrant in RTC of Manila and Quezon City.
To ensure it’s workforce is competent, PDEA also increased the number of K9 units from 12 in 2012 to 75 by June 2016; promoted 474 personnel and hired 760 new personnel; launched the anti-drug educational video for deaf and hard of hearing entitled “BUBOY”, Dislike Drugs Campaign, PDEA Tanay Park as part of demand reduction and community involvement efforts; welcomed and trained the 6th, 7th, and 8th batches of Drug Enforcement Officers; provided free training to PDEA agents at the PDEA Academy in Silang, Cavite and upgraded equipment and facilities, among others.
Also under the headship of Cacdac, the agency acquired the ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management Systems Certification and was given award as Best Agency for Performance-Based Bonus for three consecutive years in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
A Credible Agency
On top of the achievements in curbing the drug menace, Cacdac said the vital component of the organization is its’ workforce who were true to their oath as public servants.
He said the agency initiated an internal cleansing from the time of his assumption by sanctioning 89 of its personnel who have counteracted the laws and policies of public service. Of these, 31 were suspended, 25 dismissed and 33 dropped from the rolls.
Recognizing that public participation is indispensable in the anti-drug campaign,Cacdac also strengthened the reward system by ensuring that awarding of rewards are conducted timely – from annual to now quarterly as an immediate recognition of successful informants. A total P5.52 million were rewarded to 115 information since 2012.
Despite limited funds, the director general said the agency has proven its excellence in the preparation of financial reports in terms of quality, timeliness, accuracy and transparency. In the Fiscal years 2012 and 2013, PDEA Financial Management Service was awarded by the Association of Government Accountants of the Philippines (AGAP) as one of the Country’s Ten Outstanding Accounting Offices.
It is a blessing
Cacdac said “It is a blessing’’ that the next president is going to adopt criminality as his slogan. “We would like to thank President Duterte for adopting a serious campaign against drugs and criminality as his priority projects. Being a former PC and PNP officer and PDEA head, ma-swerte and mga law enforcement agencies na yan dahil ang pangulo mismo ang mamumuno laban sa kampanya sa ipinagbabawal na gamot at kriminalidad.”
Although admitting that responses to drug problem may not have been felt on the grassroots level, Cacdac stressed that its effect is indirectly felt in the barangay level.
“If we will be able to sustain this — yung supply of drugs na nakukuha sa ibabaw — hindi na bababa sa barangay kung saan pag nabenta ito malalason ang ating mga kababayan. Indirectly it has an effect sa barangay,” he said.
He said that all agencies concerned should be able to do their tasks in order to achieve a holistic approach to meet the drug challenges. “Kung hindi natin iaadress ang problema sa users na kung saan ang anti-drug abuse council gaya ng ating mga mayors ang naatasang tumulong sa kanila, potentially mainvolve sila sa street drugs at magiging problema naman sila sa mga police. Pag nagtulak naman sila para kumita para may maibigay sa pangangailangan nila sa droga magiging pusher naman sila at magiging problem sila ng PDEA at ng police. So kailangan bigyan ng balanseng treatment both users and pushers. Pagamot na natin ang users para gumaling na. Ang drug-affected barangay ngayon ay more or less 13, 000. Kung bawat affected barangay ay bibigyan ng P100, 000 para tulungan ang kanilang users that is only equivalent to P1.3 million,” he said.
At the strategic level, he said there is a need to improve monitoring of the shorelines and territorial waters. “Pag may dumating ng sea craft at di sigurado ang purpose, pwede ito ireport sa coast guard kasi pwedeng matrace kung ito’y may prohibited drugs, weapons of mass destruction or firearms, o human smuggling ba ito. So kailangan satellite based na ang ating monitoring.”
Cacdac suggested that seaports and airports should be provided sophisticated xray machines that can detect drugs to ensure these [illegal drugs] do not land on Philippine grounds. “Kailangan talaga comprehensive [ang approach]. Hindi pupuwede drug enforcement agencies like PDEA lang and umasikaso.”
“Drug problem is an international scourge. Even in first world countries like in Europe, and in communist countries, they also encounter drugs. Crime, on the other hand, is a human aberration. It is going to happen whether you like it or not, so we just have to accept the reality. The laws are there, we have to implement it. We just need to help each other. We should not be blaming each other,” he said.