Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday denied telling the Reuters news service that she wanted to put a stop to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, saying she merely called for a review and a stop to wrong practices that did nothing to lower the number of addicts.
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“I have read the headline,” she told radio dzXL. “That’s wrong.”
The Reuters headline read: “Philippine vice president says time for Duterte to halt failed drug war.”
Quoting Robredo, Reuters said the President must allow the United Nations to investigate his war on drugs and abandon it.
“I said a different thing. If you look at my interview, I only said that the government must assess if it is using the right strategies. Because if those were wrong, there is a need to tweak. Tweak means you have to change since it seems there are things that they do that no longer are working,” she said.
The Vice President said despite the government’s war on drugs that left over 5,000 people killed, the number of drug addicts and users went up from 1.8 million in 2016 to about 7 million to 8 million by February this year.
She based the figures on the Dangerous Drugs Board and the President himself.
“Isn’t it only right? What’s wrong with what I said? Isn’t it only right to assess if there are things that are no longer working in the campaign? If from the start there are only 1.4 million drug addicts, and that despite the campaign, it swelled to 7 million to 8 million now, then that could only mean something must be worked out,” she said.
A Palace spokesman said Robredo had been “brainwashed” by her colleagues in the opposition.
At the same time, the chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Aaron Aquino, disputed Robredo’s assessment that the drug war was a failure.
“If we stop the campaign against the illegal drugs, all drug lords would again enjoy doing business, all the drug pushers and even our users,” he said.
The war on drugs led to the confiscation of P36 billion worth of illegal drugs, the arrest of close to 200,000 drug personalities and declaration of 15,000 barangays as drug-cleared in two years and four months, he said.
“What a waste if we do (stop). We have huge accomplishments. Why ask it (the campaign) to stop?” he said.
“In the first eight months (this year), we were able to seize illegal drugs worth P7.6 billion. Most of those arrested were foreigners,” he said.
“Once we arrest international drug syndicates, we consider them as drug lords already. The public just doesn’t see who we have arrested,” he added.
He said in two years, 63 suspects have been killed by PDEA personnel, and each of these cases was being investigated.
In a statement, the Dangerous Drugs Board headed by Catalino Cuy expressed “sadness” over Robredo’s statements, saying she was “misled.”
“It seems that up until now, the Vice President is misled in understanding the anti-drug campaign. Authorities continue to address the domestic drug issues using a holistic, balanced and comprehensive approach,” the agency said.
“Though much of the agencies of the government have been diligent in performing their roles and responsibilities under the Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy (PADS) which is institutionalized by virtue of Executive Order No. 66, series of 2018, there are still institutions in the government and sectors in the society that need to be informed on PADS,” it added.
“It appears that VP Robredo is only looking at the one side of the campaign. While enforcement issues are more evident, we cannot discount the successes we have gained in the demand reduction part of the campaign,” the DDB said.
Senator Christopher Go said the fight against illegal drugs must continue, saying it has the support of 82 percent of Filipinos. --With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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