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The Philippines: New Agency Created to Support Drug Enforcement Agency

(Mar. 15, 2017) On March 6, 2017, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order creating the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) that brings together 21 state agencies, with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as chair, under a joint command, in order to more effectively combat the country’s drug problem. (Manuel Mogato, Philippine Drugs War Gets Complex as Duterte Creates New Super-Agency, REUTERS (Mar. 10, 2017); Creation of an Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) and Anti-Illegal Drug Task Force to Suppress the Drug Problem in the Country, Executive Order No. 15, s. 2017 (signed Mar. 6, 2017), OFFICIAL GAZETTE.)

Funding to initially implement the Order will come “from available funds of the members of the ICAD and other appropriate funding sources, subject to existing budgeting, accounting and auditing laws, rules and regulations.” (Executive Order No. 15, s. 2017, supra, § 6 ¶ 1.)

The anti-drug crackdown has been ongoing for some time. In October 2016, the Philippines police had launched a second phase in the country’s war against illegal drugs with priority given to fighting “high-value targets,” and since the crackdown began eight months ago, over 8,000 people have been killed, more than 2,500 of the deaths the result of shootouts during raids, and 48,000 suspects have been arrested.  (Mogato, supra.)

ICAD Composition and Functions

The ICAD “encompasses bodies from police, military and coastguard to health, education and social welfare, and aims to rehabilitate users and suppress dealers large and small.”  (Id.)  A new Drug Enforcement Group, to which “some 500 police” will be appointed, will “target drug financiers, manufacturers, distributors and protectors, including elected officials,” while the state’s Anti-Money Laundering Council is charged with halting the flow of drug money.  (Id.)

The stated tasks of ICAD are to:

  1. Ensure the effective conduct of anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of high-value drug personalities down to the street-level peddlers and users;
  2. Spearhead and coordinate the implementation of the National Anti-Drug Plan of Action (NADPA) 2015-2020;
  3. Ensure the comprehensive implementation of the Barangay Drug-Clearing Program (barangays are villages; this refers to a local anti-illegal drug campaign as the line of first defense; see, e.g., Jing Villamente, PDEA Sets Guidelines for Drug-Clearing Program, MANILA TIMES (Feb. 19, 2017).)
  4. Ensure intensive conduct of advocacy campaign initiatives;
  5. Ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the member agencies are efficiently and effectively carried out;
  6. Cleanse the bureaucracy of unscrupulous personnel involved in illegal drug activities; and
  7. Ensure that the anti-illegal drug objectives of the government are achieved.  (Executive Order No. 15, s. 2017, supra, § 2 ¶ 1.)

The Executive Order creates groupings into which the 21 agencies will be divided: four “clusters” of ICAD operations that include enforcement, justice (to expeditiously prosecute drug cases), advocacy (to promote the government’s anti-illegal drug policy and programs nationwide), and rehabilitation and reintegration. (Id. § 3.)

Anti-Illegal Drug Task Force

The Order also provides for the establishment by ICAD of a National Anti-Illegal Drug Task Force, “composed of members of law enforcement agencies” that will “undertake sustained anti-illegal drug operations” in close coordination with the PDEA.  (Id. § 4; Mogato, supra.)  The President of the Philippines will appoint the Task Force commander, “a senior law enforcement officer” who will “report directly to the PDEA Director General.”  (Executive Order No. 15, s2017, supra, § 4.)

Reactions

Reportedly, the second phase of the anti-illegal drug campaign on taking aim at high-value targets has had few concrete effects, according to critics. (Mogato, supra.)  Critics have charged that the government has failed “to identify the sources of the drugs or the money trail,” while rights groups say that this “crackdown is driven largely by fear and overwhelmingly targets small-time users in impoverished communities.”  (Id.)