Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Marie Rafael, Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Spokesperson PSupt. Kimberly Esteban Molitas, and Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS) Executive Director Undersecretary Severo S. Catura hold a press briefing on "Real Numbers" at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) ASEAN Theater/Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City on July 18, 2019.
Real Numbers is a program launched by the PCOO that officially and exclusively releases updates and statistics on the government's campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines. (Photo by Gabriel Villanueva/PIA InfoComm)
QUEZON CITY, July 18 (PIA) -- More than 2,000 children, with one as young as four years old, have been rescued in anti-illegal drug raids conducted by operatives of President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drug campaign, an official said on Thursday.
Speaking on The Presser: #RealNumbersPH Press Briefing held at the Philippine Information Agency, Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Spokesperson PSupt. Kimberly Esteban Molitas said, "We have rescued 2,385 children with our anti-drug operations and we have cleared 42,045 barangays and we're still to clear 19,215, so we still have a lot of job to do."
She said the data, verified by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), covers a period from July 1, 2016 up to their cut-off date of June 30, 2019, and children ages 4-17 years old who were involved in illegal drug activities.
Breaking down this total, the data further showed that 1,298 children were involved in pushing drugs, 10 were drug den employees, six were drug den maintainers, 370 were drug users, 130 visited a drug den during raids, two were cultivators of marijuana, and 632 were caught in possession of illegal substance.
"Here in the Philippines, we have a law that protects our children. Any child, 15 years old and below, we do not arrest them, even if they commit a crime, we rescue them. We in the PNP are not allowed to put them inside a cell, a jail. What we do is we communicate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and we turn over these children to them for any program that they can avail of," Molitas added.
For his part, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS) Executive Director Severo Catura emphasized that children are always the victims of the drug problem in the country.
"We go back to it as a human rights perspective, we do not condemn children, but we condemn drug offenders who put children in vulnerable situations, such as hostages, such as being mules, pushers, even to the extent of being den maintainers. So ganun katalamak. That's how gross the problem is already. So we protect children," Catura said.
It can be recalled that PDEA has earlier launched 'Oplan Sagip Bata,' the anti-drug agency's major operation against drug pushers who used kids in their illicit trade.
The project is also part of the agency's harm reduction advocacy aimed at addressing the problem of children being abused in illegal drug activities while implementing an aggressive supply reduction strategy.
Meanwhile, Catura called on media to focus not only on drug-related deaths but also report on the ever-increasing figures of successful arrests and those who willingly surrendered and opted for rehabilitation.
"The truth of the matter is, it is my first time attending the Real Numbers and it really is quite surprising, often media tends to report only the deaths. Coming from a human rights perspective, we should always understand that what we're doing is basically related to the state's obligation to protect its people. Why am I so concerned by the deaths? Is because there are so many positive things to report," Catura said.
"Let us consider the fact that when the President declared the anti-illegal drug campaign, there was immediately, some 1.3 million who surrendered, and right now, there are so many anti-drug operations that resulted in 193,000 arrests as compared to the deaths that have occurred," he added, emphasizing that he also doesn't disregard the deaths as something as minor.
Likewise, sustained 134,583 anti-drug operations by government have resulted to the arrest of 193,086 drug personalities and death of 5,526 individuals, the Real Numbers records showed.
Molitas said successful raids led them to dismantle 334 drug dens and 14 clandestine laboratories nationwide during the said period.
The Presser is a continuing program of the Presidential Communications Operations Office aimed at fighting disinformation by connecting top officials of the Executive Branch with the local media and engaging the global media and foreign audiences to respond to pressing issues. (PIA InfoComm)