Press Release
August 14, 2013

Speech delivered by Quezon City Councilor Lala Sotto
on behalf of Sen. Vicente Sotto III at the Drug Summit
held Tuesday, August 13, 2013, in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija

Ako po ay inatasan lamang ng aking butihing ama na si Senador Sotto na dumalo at magbigay ng kanyang mensahe rito sa dinaraos ninyong Drug Summit.

Alam niyo naman po seguro na ang pagsugpo sa droga ay ang pinakamalaking adbokasiya ng aking ama simula pa noong siya ay nasa pribadong sector. Hanggang ngayon na nasa politika na siya, ito pa rin po ang kanyang mithiin at hangarin: na magtagumpay na sa wakas ang matagal na nating kampanya laban sa bawal na droga.

Kaya nga po, hindi siya nag-atubili nga sumali sa ginawa ninyong pagkilos at makiisa sa inyong layunin.

Bagamat gusto niyang personal nga dumalo rito, hindi niya puwedeng iwanan ang mga mahalagang gawain niya sa Senado, kaya po ako na lamang ang kanyang pinadala.

Ito po ang mensahe ni Senador Sotto...

In late November last year, during a hearing at the committee on dangerous drugs in the House of Representatives, the Dangerous Drugs Board or DDB revealed that an estimated 1.7 million Filipinos are hooked on addictive drugs, with 1,700 of them dying each year due to the drug-related causes.

In his testimony, DDB Executive Director Benjamin Reyes explained that the 1.7 million represents an increase of 200,000 from the number of drug users two years ago. Based on his agency's estimate, Reyes admitted that the number of deaths directly related to drug use was "very low."

According to Reyes, even the World Health Organization ranks the Philippines 153rd in terms of drug use-related mortalities.

The revelation of Reyes has raised not a few eyebrows among the committee members. Committee Chairman Vicente Belmonte Jr. of Iligan City and Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez, a former Palace national security adviser, expressed disbelief over the DDB figures.

Congressman Golez said that he could not believe that there were only 1,700 deaths a year attributed to drug abuse, claiming that 70-75 percent of all crimes and deaths resulting from these crimes are attributed to or induced by drug use.

I tend to agree with the observation of some of the members of the House committee that the DDB figure is too low. We all know that drug use and drug trafficking are now widespread in the Philippines; they are not limited to urban centers but even to the countryside.

If you go to any barangay, even in the remotest area in the country, you can be sure that there are users of the illegal drugs, especially among the young.

This is so because the illegal drug market in the Philippines has thrived on what the PDEA called the "sachet economy" where regular drug users only consume an average of 0.04 gram of shabu per session in a twice-a-week use.

This small sachet of shabu can be bought easily just like buying a sachet of shampoo or three-in-one coffee in the village distribution outlet.

The questions now are: Why has this happened? What have our law enforcement agencies done? Why can't they once and for all eradicate this cancer that has metastasized from the urban centers to the villages?

I believe that our law-enforcement agencies--the PDEA, the police and the National Bureau of Investigation--have been doing their jobs. The PDEA, for one, has arrested thousands of drug traffickers and substance abusers during the past few months and its operation against big-time drug manufacturers, including foreigners, are quite successful.

But I think law-enforcement is not enough; clearly it is not the only solution to this multi-headed hydra called drug abuse.

We can't see the forest for the trees as the old idiom says. We can't see the bigger picture or grasp the deeper meaning of what is happening around us.

I firmly believe that the root cause of our drug problem is the erosion of our family values, the loss of love and respect in our homes, the absence of communication between children and parent, the breakdown of discipline and understanding among members of the family.

This will happen when the father is out drinking with his barkada and the mother is playing mahjong and the children are left alone in the house.

My message, therefore, is let us strengthen the family, let us restore the sense of togetherness among members of the family, let us bring back the love and compassion especially towards our children so that they will not go astray and seek refuge in drugs.

This, I think, is the best shield against the inroads of the evil that is drug addiction.

To stress to you the importance of the family in our lives, this is what Pope Francis said last July 27 on the sidelines of the World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero: "Not only would I say that the family is important for the evangelization of the new world. The family is important, and it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Without the family, the cultural survival of the human race would be at risk. The family, whether we like it or not, is the foundation (of society)."

Marami pong salamat sa inyong lahat.

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