SURIGAO del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, the appointed chairman of the 13th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) Fact-Finding Committee (AIFOCOM) to Combat the Drug Menace, today challenged his fellow ASEAN lawmakers to act more decisively and be stronger and more courageous in battling illegal drugs to free the ASEAN region from its scourge.
I say it is time to take bold, courageous steps, and to bring more of our collective weight into forging a tighter, more decisive collaboration against illegal drugs. In so doing, the world will again witness the tenacity of the ASEAN spirit, our unity of purpose and our leadership in Asia, said Barbers during his acceptance speech for the AIFOCOM Meeting chairmanship.
He expressed appreciation of the distinct privilege to preside over the 13th AIFOCOM Meeting.
Barbers recalled that the joint effort in combating the drug menace dates back in 1976 when the ASEAN Declaration of Principles to Combat the Abuse of Narcotic Drugs was signed in Manila. The AIFOCOM itself has been in existence since 2001, he said.
Sixteen years have passed and today, it is time for our group to reach deeply into our collective conscience and wrestle with this question: Are we going to move forward and step up our game? Should we continue to just be a fact-finding body or should we contribute more meaningfully and decisively to free our region from the scourge of illegal drugs?, said Barbers.
Barbers, the chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, said it is significant that the chairmanship of ASEAN is held this year by the Philippines at a time when the people and government of the country have made great strides in the war against drugs.
I am thus honored to preside over the prestigious AIFOCOM Meeting of the region's most respected parliamentarians. It is my hope that our meeting will result in concrete steps towards prioritizing this important issue within the ASEAN agenda, and thus hasten closer cooperation and success within the region, said Barbers.
Barbers lauded the strong political will of President Rodrigo Duterte in addressing the drug problem.
President Duterte was elected on the strength of a platform promising swift and decisive against crime, especially illegal drug use and trafficking. Within one year of his presidency, the country has discovered the disturbing extent of drug affectation and syndication in the country, its corruption of governance, and the insidious and continuing threat to the rule of law, said Barbers.
Citing the gains of the country's war-on-drugs, Barbers said the campaign has resulted in the voluntary surrender of more one million drug users who can now take advantage of drug rehabilitation services and be restored to their families and communities.
Moreover, within less than a year, the government has closed down several illegal drug laboratories, seized methamphetamine hydrochloride worth P12.62 billion and brought down the crime rate by 28.75 percent according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The amount and value of drugs and non-drug evidence confiscated by the Duterte government during its first year surpassed the record posted by the past two administrations during their initial year of service by 55.72 percent and 73.16 percent, respectively, said Barbers.
Barbers said only firm and decisive leadership can account for the record amount of shabu seizure within a span of one year, which, statistically, was achieved by the last administration within four and half years.
Sheer political will and a strong sense of patriotic duty caused the unmasking of politicians, law enforcement officers and the most minor village drug pusher who all have threatened to bring the country to its knees, and to make it, irretrievably, a narco-state, said Barbers.
Barbers said today there is a heightened sense of personal safety in Philippine communities, one that results from the recognition that the war-on-drugs is one that should be won for the Filipino people.
All these have restored the people's trust in the nation's leaders and has inspired stability and a sense of national pride, said Barbers.
Barbers said the annual AIFOCOM Meeting is an opportunity for all Member Parliamentarians to learn about how their community has met the challenge of eradicating the illicit trade in drugs. Through the years, this resolve has grown stronger and their decisions more incisive as Member Parliaments endeavored to upgrade the level of their cooperation.
Learning the modus operandi of drug syndicates, comparing statutory frameworks for law enforcement and judicial administration, sharing best practices and formulating concrete plans of action have moved us closer towards the eradication of the drug menace and towards ensuring the security of the region, said Barbers.
Source: House of Representatives