CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Even with his new appointment as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) highest official, Wilkins Villanueva said Wednesday (May 27) he will still monitor persons who are engaged in illegal drugs in Northern Mindanao (Region 10).
Villanueva, who was recently appointed by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as PDEA director-general, warned drug personalities in the region he will deal with them even as he assumes his new post.
Prior to his appointment, Villanueva was the PDEA-10 director.
“I will leave here with a warning: To those who refuse to heed, I will eventually catch you. I will keep tabs on you, I will surely find ways to look for you,” he said.
As the director-general, Villanueva said his first order of business is to revise PDEA’s operational protocol that will adapt to the “new normal” caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The protocol includes the strict compliance with physical distancing in conducting operations, he said.
“We will adjust on how to safely conduct our anti-drug operations, starting with target setting, casing and surveillance, buy-bust, and serving of search warrant, that’s what we are planning to do. We will ensure that we don’t violate the social distancing policy. We don’t want our agents to get infected with the coronavirus because we treasure the lives of our operatives,” he added.
Villanueva said the observance of safe physical distancing has already been practiced in his area of responsibility, especially in Cagayan de Oro City.
“Whatever is our best practice we will implement in other regions,” he said, adding he will also push for the passage of the Magna Carta for PDEA employees.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Robert Ace Barbers authored House Bill 73 or the proposed “Magna Carta of the Drug Enforcement Officers and Other Personnel of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency”, which has yet to be passed into law.
“We are asking the help of our lawmakers to pass the Magna Carta. We have been in existence for 18 years and yet we still don’t have a Magna Carta,” Villanueva said.
He said it is unfortunate that every time a PDEA operative dies in the line of duty, the agency has to “beg for financial assistance” as the agency has no available funds for burial and other expenses.
As Duterte’s term is set to end in 2022, Villanueva vowed to “lose no time” in implementing his plans for the agency, which he hopes would have a “stronger, massive approach” on anti-drugs.
“We only have a short time left to end this drug problem,” he said. “PDEA will never lose its sight even if our time is limited and the pandemic is still there. We will see to it that our goal is achieved.”
Villanueva started his career in law enforcement as a junior officer of the Philippine Constabulary’s 10th Regional Special Action Force.
From there, he became assistant director for comptrollership of the Aviation Security Command; company commander of the 11th Regional Mobile Force’s 1st Company; and commander of the Task Group Monkayo in Davao de Oro.
He was appointed as team leader of the Explosive Ordnance and Demolition Team in Region 11, and later as chief intelligence of the national anti-kidnapping task force Mindanao area which evolved into the police anti-crime and emergency response (Pacer).
He was also assigned as the regional chief of the 11th Regional Narcotics Group, then as regional director of PDEA in Regions 11 and the National Capital Region.
Villanueva was also appointed as director of PDEA preventive education and community involvement service and later became its superintendent.
Among his noteworthy accomplishments in the fight against illegal drugs is championing the Barangay Drug Clearing Program, which has become the main strategy of the President’s war on drugs.
He is an alumnus of the Philippine Military Academy, belonging to the “Maringal” Class of 1988. He finished his Master’s Degree in Public Administration at the Ateneo de Davao University, Program for Development Managers at Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and is presently taking his Doctorate Degree in Forensic Criminology. (PNA)