From left; Janice Canaya, 22; and Kristina de Mesa, 32, both female K9 handler trainees. Photo taken during a break of their PDEA K9 Basic Handler’s Course training in Antipolo City.

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency K9 Unit welcomes its first female K9 handlers in its roster.

Janice Canaya, 22, of Tuguegarao City, Cagayan; and Kristina de Mesa, 32, of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro are among the 100 newly-hired PDEA K9 handlers belonging to the 4th Batch Class 04-2018 of the PDEA K9 and Handlers’ Basic Course. They are set to undergo a six-month intensive training in Zemog K9 Training Center, Sitio Puting Bato, Inarawan, Antipolo City starting September 10, 2018.

Canaya and De Mesa are the first female candidates who applied as PDEA K9 handlers since the creation of the K9 unit of the Agency.

Canaya applied as K9 handler in PDEA because of her innate fondness for dogs. She has pets of various breeds, like Shih Tzu, Chihuahua, and a Labrador. She was once a K9 handler in Tuguegarao airport during her on-the-job training as a criminology student.

This will serve as my stepping stone in realizing my dream of becoming a Drug Enforcement Officer someday. The training will surely provide me with additional practical know-how on the aspects of search and seizure that is important during greyhound operations. May our presence in the K9 unit serves as example to other women that indeed this job is not just for men,” Canaya said.

De Mesa was formerly a computer programmer in the Local Government of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro. She also worked as Administrative Assistant in the DILG program KALAHI-CIDSS. As a music lover, she was once a band member as a base and rhythm guitar player. She was also a volleyball varsity player from elementary to college.

Believing in gender equality, De Mesa signified her intent to be part of the PDEA K9 team despite knowing the rigid six-month training she had to undergo. She is hopeful that she can contribute to the Agency in its fight against illegal drugs.

It is an honor to be a part of the lead agency in the fight against illegal drugs. With the difficulty in finding a job today, I am thankful given the chance to be a part of this prestigious Agency and be able to help in the eradication of illegal drugs which continue to destroy the future of the people, particularly the youth,” she said.

These two ladies will serve as inspiration for other females who aspire to be K9 handlers in the future. It simply proves that the job intended for K9 handlers is not only for men but also for women who are sincere and dedicated in helping eradicate illegal drugs in the country.” said PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino.

Their tasks and responsibilities after graduation will just be the same as that of our male K9 handlers. They will be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to become a qualified K9 handler before they will be deployed to their areas of assignments with their dogs,” said PDEA K9 chief Agent Bernardo Velazquez.

The training includes familiarization with substances subject for detection, understanding of K9 behavior, dog’s drive development, substance printing and indication to improve the dog’s ability to distinguish scents of illegal drugs, and scent discrimination to develop the dog’s ability to differentiate odors of illicit substances, among others.

After graduation, Canaya and De Mesa, together with other handlers and their Narcotic Detection Dogs (NDDs) or K9s, will be deployed in seaports, airports and other vulnerable areas across the country to provide support in the conduct of anti-drug operations,” Aquino said.

Since 2014, three batches, composed of 24 K9s and 41 K9 handlers have successfully graduated from the training course. Historically, the PDEA K9 Unit always had male handlers working with drug-sniffing dogs until Canaya and De Mesa came on board.

“I hope more women will follow the footsteps of Canaya and De Mesa in K9 handling, a field in law enforcement usually dominated by men. This means women are just as qualified and capable of doing the job as their male counterparts,” Aquino pointed out.

Under Aquino, the latest batch of K9 training made PDEA history as it is the most extensive single procurement of new 100 PDEA K9s worth PhP42.5 million, and by far the largest recruitment and training of K9 handlers in one training course setting.

These K9 handlers and NDDs will be deployed in the different PDEA regional offices nationwide to augment the present K9 unit. Regional Office National Capital Region (RO-NCR) will be given 15 NDDs and handlers; Cordillera Administrative Region 3; Regional Office (ROI) 4; (ROII) 6; (RO III) 7; (RO IVA) 4; (RO IVB) 5; (RO V) 5; (ROVI) 8; (RO VII) 8; (RO VIII) 4; (RO IX) 5; (RO X) 4; (RO XI) 8; (RO XII) 6; (RO XIII) 4; and ARMM will be given 4.

Strengthening the PDEA K9 unit is one of my priority thrusts to boost the agency’s capabilities in conducting greyhound operations in correctional facilities, check-point and interdiction operations, and detection of New Psychoactive Substances being rampantly used as party drugs,” the PDEA chief said.

According to Aquino, the PDEA K9 unit continues to improve its facility as it envisions to be the premier NDD training center in the country where all NDDs utilized by law enforcement agencies nationwide will be trained. “Construction of new buildings worth P21.3 million inside the 5,000 square meter PDEA K9 facility in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan is on-going,” he said.

On July 2018, PDEA launched the Standard Operating Procedures on Management of the NDDs and Preventive Medicines Programme for K9 to institutionalize and enhance the supervision and handling of PDEA K9.


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