Press Freedom Caravan: Defending the Anti-Drug Campaign in the Philippines

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(photo: IO/Raihan)

IO, Jakarta – The Philippines embassy for Indonesia, in collaboration with the PCOO (Presidential Communications Operations Office), held a “Press Freedom Caravan” event, where they briefed the Filipino expat community on the progress of their government, and met foreign media at the Multi-Purpose Hall, Embassy of the Philippines, Central Jakarta (24/7).

Ramon L, Cualoping III, as PCOO Assistant Secretary & Chief Brand Integrator, explained the situation of the government’s campaign in the fight against drugs. “There’s so much misinformation about the drug war in Philippines, that led into unfair contention against our Philippines government. That’s why we would like to explain through a presentation about this topic,” he said while giving explanation to the audience, including media.

Ramon pointed out that, according to a polling firm of the Philippines, around 66% of the population of the state consider the war on drugs as one of the top achievements during President Duterte’s administration.

According to the source of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), So far there are 134,583 Anti-Drug operations conducted, 193,086 drug users and sellers arrested, and 5,526 drug users and sellers who died in anti-drug operations.

“From July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019, there were about 7,054 high value targets arrested. Not just the syndicate, but also government members, senators, uniformed personnel, celebrities, and even armed group members (Abu Sayyaf group) who were involved” said Ramon.

Because of Duterte’s commitment to fight illegal drugs, some 1.4 million people (mostly drug users) have surrendered to the authorities, because they’ve made an effort to change their lives.

“1,4 million, that’s size of the population of Iceland. They want to change to be better, because of the effect of Operation Tokhang” he said. The name of the operation was derived from the toktok (knock) and hangyo (plead). As the name suggests, Operation Tokhang involves the police visiting the houses of individuals suspected to be involved in the illegal drug trade or as users, to persuade them to stop their activities and submit themselves to authority for potential rehabilitation.

The Philippines government has launched a campaign known as “REHABiNASYON”, a portmanteau of rehabilitation and nation, aiming to take a holistic approach to eliminating the country’s drug problem by putting a premium on the rehabilitation of drug victims.

The media briefing was attended by the Ambassador of Philippines to Indonesia, H.E Leehiong T. Wee, Martin M. Andanar as Secretary of the PCOO, Atty Kristian R. Ablan (PCOO Assistant Secretary & FOI (Freedom of Information) Program Director), Jose Joel M. Sy Egco as PTFOMS (Presidential Task Force on Media Security) Executive Directors, and Rudy Celeste (President of Duterte for Progress). (Rei)