Sen. Ping Lason
By Junex Doronio
WITH THE APPARENT FIXATION of the President on the war against illegal drugs, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson has wondered aloud why its campaign was only given P2-billion budget.
“It’s easy to say ‘I hate drugs,’ but if you don’t provide it with a budget, how would you defeat the drug problem?” the feisty senator from Cavite blurted out.
Lacson could not help but notice the P2-billion only allocated in the proposed budget for 2021 for the Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy (PADS), which involves several government agencies.
He also noted that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was excluded in the PADS budget when it is the lead agency in the drug war.
During a Senate hearing, Undersecretary Benjamin Reyes said the DDB had requested P9 billion for the PADS, but the program was given only P2 billion.
He explained that the requested amount for the PDEA were not granted because the mandate is with the Philippine National Police, which is the front-liner in the war on drugs.
But Lacson pointed out that the PDEA is the lead agency in the campaign.
“If you give the budget to the PNP and not to the PDEA, what is its financial ascendancy over the front-liners? Who will coordinate when the funds are given to law enforcement?” Lacson further asked.
He lamented that President Duterte had always emphasized the need to fight the drug menace, and yet the budget for the PADS is less than 1 percent of the P4.5-trillion budget for next fiscal year.
“Has the President lost interest in the fight against illegal drugs?” Lacson asked.
However, Undersecretary Benjamin Reyes of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) believes that the President is still interested because “in his every pronouncement, he still mentions drugs.”
Lacson retorted that making a statement was different from practical support. (ia)