This is Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles’s welcome speech during Rehabinasyon: The First National Anti-Drugs Summit last Sunday, February 3, 2019 at the Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City.

To the men and women in law enforcement and all our partners in the war against drugs; maayong gabii sa inyo tanan, welcome to Davao City.

Please permit me to begin by saying thank you to all of you for being here today. For all of us who work––whether it be in government, the private sector, or non-government organizations––weekends usually afford us an opportunity to take a brief respite from our jobs to spend time with our family and loved ones. This is particularly true for Sundays, which is traditionally reserved for our families; a day to exercise our faith with family, to sit down and share a meal with those we do not often see because of our busy weekdays, to have a little R and R before going back to work.

For all of you, however, Monday came a day early. Maraming salamat po for working overtime.

That aside, if there is something I have learned in my years in government, it is that all of us in the employ of our countrymen spend time away from our families not because we love our families any less, but precisely because we love them very much; because what we do does not just put food on the table––it also contributes to promoting the welfare of our people and to building a brighter future for one and all.

Aaminin ko, as a father of three young children, that I miss them very much when I am not with them and their beautiful mother––and I am sure all of you feel the same way about your families. Makamingaw kaayo. But in those times I believe it helps to remind ourselves why we do what we do: we do this not just for our children, but for the millions of Filipino children who are counting on us to bequeath them a future that is––to quote the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan––matatag, maginhawa, at panatag.” A stable, comfortable, secure future.

That, my friends, is why we are gathered here today. To discuss, deliberate, and work together to address a problem that threatens the life of every Filipino, a danger that if neglected could rob our children of their future: illegal drugs.

When we talk about illegal drugs, the most common way to characterize this campaign is to say that what we are undertaking is a “war on drugs.” While this is wholly accurate, I believe we should not lose sight of why we have been mobilized for this fight; this is not only a war on drugs, but a battle for the future of our children. And this is a battle that we must win.

Almost halfway through his term, President Rodrigo Duterte is as serious about winning this war as he was during his first day in office. And he has good reason to, because the numbers show that we must continue to be relentless in our efforts to stamp out illegal drugs. According to PDEA, from July 2016 to September 2018, 25 billion pesos’ worth of drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals, and laboratory equipment were seized. This is an astounding figure; for context, 25 billion pesos would be enough to cover, for one school year, the costs of over one half of the 1.3 million students enrolled in our state universities and colleges.

Because of this, the President has given us marching orders and has directed all government offices to take an “active role” in the war against drugs. Under Memorandum Circular No. 33 signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on behalf of the President, all government offices, agencies, and instrumentalities, including government-owned or -controlled corporations and state universities and colleges, have been directed to “mobilize their assets and take an active role in the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, in accordance with their respective mandates.”

This, as the memorandum states, is consistent with the policy of the states “to pursue an effective campaign against trafficking and use of dangerous drugs through an integrated system of planning, implementation and enforcement of anti-illegal drug abuse policies, programs, and projects.”

The danger we face is serious, but I believe that there is no problem that cannot be solved when all the stakeholders are on the same page and are wiling to work together to address it. We have, since the President took office, taken the first step, which is to acknowledge that the problem exists. Now it is up to us to sit down, discuss, and plan how we will move forward to decisively act on this problem.

Two days from now I will be marking my three months in the Cabinet. In that time span I have been fortunate to witness the breadth of what can be accomplished when government agencies and offices, together with the concerned stakeholders, are able to work in concert toward a specific objective. Natutunan ko na marami po ang nagagawa at magagawa pagnagtulungan tayo. Kailangan lang natin makipagusap, magkaisa, at sabay-sabay na kumilos.

Again, thank you very much for all the effort you have poured into this summit. As a fellow worker in government, I thank you for performing your roles in this urgent government program. As a father, I thank you––especially those in law enforcement––for your risking your lives to secure the future of my children. As a Filipino, I thank you for laying the foundation for a drug-free Philippines.

Magandang gabi po, at mabuhay po kayong lahat!

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