By Manny PiÃ±ol
Presidential frontrunner Rodrigo R. Duterte has warned that drug syndicates in the country are heavily armed and said elite police units and the armed forces have to be drafted in the nation-wide anti-drugs campaign which would be "bloody."
While he assured that "there will be no extra-judicial killings," Duterte warned that the anti-drug campaign would be bloody because the drug lords are well-financed and heavily armed.
Duterte issued the warning Wednesday at the end of the two-day pre-campaign conference in Davao City attended by his leaders nation-wide and his Vice Presidential running mate Alan Peter Cayetano.
Cayetano, who is a lawyer like Duterte, has earlier issued a statement that there will be no extra judicial measures in the campaign against drugs and criminality.
Four months before the elections and almost six months before he starts working should he win, Duterte appears ready to fulfill his promise to the nation that he would stop that almost unabated drug trade in the country.
Shortly before Christmas last year, Duterte was seen in the company of former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Dionisio Santiago.
While Santiago did not confirm it, he apparently supplied Duterte with a dossier on the illegal drugs situation and a list of the biggest drug lords in the country.
If elected President, Duterte said he will "use the Special Action Force (SAF) and the elite units of the Armed Forces" in the campaign against drug lords.
"I assure our policemen and members of the Armed Forces that I will protect them and support them from legal harassments arising from the performance of their tasks to clear the country of drugs,' Duterte said.
Duterte said the illegal drugs trade has already penetrated even agricultural and remote communities in the countryside and drug dealers are now accepting "chicken and pigs" as payment for "shabu" which is called the poor man's cocaine.
"Agents of drugs are already parlaying in the rural areas accepting chicken and hogs as payment for the drugs. The tragedy of it all is that this administration never really addressed the problem squarely. The drug problem is getting serious everyday. It is cutting across all dimensions of society," Duterte said adding that a whole generation of Filipinos now is threatened by drug addiction.
Duterte warned that drugs is destroying a whole generation of young Filipinos citing that in Metro Manila, PDEA statistics showed that 9 out of 10 barangays have serious problems with drugs.
He said that if the illegal drugs trade is not stopped, the Philippines could become a narco state with serious drugs problems like Mexico and Colombia.
In Mexico two weeks ago, gunmen apparently hired by drug lords shot and killed the lady mayor of Temixco, a known anti-drugs advocate, one day after she assumed office.
Late yesterday, the Mexican government had to use its Federal forces to recapture billionaire drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman who escaped from a maximum security prison last year.
Duterte earlier warned that there are 3 million drug addicts in the country today and an estimated 30,000 drug lords and drug dealers and the number is growing steadily as government appears incapable of handling the problem.
"I do not want to make promises that I cannot keep. But I assure the Filipino people that I will address illegal drugs, criminality and corruption and in the first 3 to 6 months of my term, changes will be felt by the whole nation," Duterte said.
Duterte, labeled as "The Punisher" in an article which appeared in Time Magazine, has waged a bloody anti-drugs war in Davao City which saw the killing of nine Chinese nationals who were establishing a shabu laboratory in the city several years ago.
He, however, admitted that in spite of his efforts to curb the use of drugs in the city, "people still find a way to bring in drugs through our porous borders."
Duterte said the campaign against drugs should be a nation-wide effort to ensure its success.