Gov't alone can't end illegal drugs in PH – Año

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte's key promise to rid the country of illegal drugs cannot be fulfilled solely by the government, admitted Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año.

"Our challenges [in 2019] are still fighting corruption and illegal drugs. We really need a massive advocacy so that the community, the people themselves can help. This is because the government alone cannot do it," Año said in a mix of English and Filipino in an interview on ANC's The World Tonight aired on Tuesday, December 25.

"What we need here is whole-of-nation initiative, and whole-of-government approach," he added.

While the government has reached milestones in the unrelenting campaign against illegal drugs, Año said there is more to be done.

He said some 87 politicians remain in the government's infamous drug list, while scalawags still infest the Philippine National Police – the very muscle employed by the Duterte administration for its so-called "war on drugs."

Rehabilitation has also been lagging behind law enforcement, as arrests of drug suspects are made faster than the government is able to help them recover. (READ: No 'real number' on drug rehab: Here's why)

The government's new strategy: To overcome these setbacks, Año promoted the government's thrust toward a "whole-of-nation approach" outlined by the newly signed Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy.

Under Executive Order No. 66, the President directed the cooperation of government agencies among themselves, and government agencies with non-governmental organizations to prevent drug proliferation at the community level.

Duterte also instructed all government offices, including local government units, to formulate programs to ensure a drug-free workplace.

So far, the government has been heavy-handed in law enforcement operations, leading to massive hauls of illegal drugs, but also resulting in the death of almost 5,000 drug suspects who allegedly resisted arrest.

Human rights groups put the number of deaths at around 20,000, which includes vigilante-style killings allegedly linked to or influenced by Duterte's anti-drug campaign. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.