A COLOSSAL blunder.
That was how President Duterte slammed Vice President Leni Robredo a day after the former co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) assessed the government’s war against drug a “complete failure.”
“You know, for all of these years she has done nothing. She is a colossal blunder. Colossal blunder. Blunder,” the President said when asked in an interview to comment on Robredo’s 40-page post ICAD report.
Duterte also shrugged off her suggestion for the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) to take over the ICAD chairmanship from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA), which she proposed should be made to head the enforcement cluster instead.
Pissed about Robredo “lecturing” him, the President said Robredo can consider and even implement her proposals when and if she becomes president of the country.
“If ever, kung sakali lang, kung maging presidente siya, gawin niya iyan. She does not lecture on me,” he said adding that Robredo’s victory as vice president, notably by a slim margin, was a “mistake.”
PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa dismissed as a mere “public relations bombshell” Robredo’s assessment of the government’s war on drugs.
“Whether her numbers are merely an estimate or the exact value, in any case, the figure derived is totally wrong,” Gamboa told a press conference at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame.
Gamboa said the campaign against illegal drugs cannot be a failure since law enforcers successfully dismantled 14 clandestine laboratories and 419 drug dens.
“These 14 demolished clandestine laboratories could not be the one percent cited by VP Robredo, but perhaps represent 100 percent success rate because there is no more local production of methamphetamine products in the country,” Gamboa said.
Gamboa also said police officers were able to seize 5.1 tons of shabu, 2.2 tons of marijuana, 500 kilos of cocain and 42,473 ecstacy pills, with a total value of P40.39 billion, in the continuing campaign.
Since the war on drugs started in 2016 up to the fourth quarter of 2019, Gamboa said 151,601 operations were carried out that resulted to the arrest of 220,728 drug law violators, including 8,185 high-value targets, and death of 5,552 suspects.
“All these operations led to the clearing of 16,706 drug-affected barangays in different localities,” he added.
“On the soft hand approach to the drug problem, 421,724 drug patients were treated under PNP-initiated and supported community centers recovery and wellness programs,” Gamboa also said.
Gamboa also noted the result of a recent survey that showed eight of 10 Filipinos expressing overwhelming approval of the war on drugs.
Stressing that the campaign has led to the death of 55 policemen, Gamboa said: “It would be the height of disrespect to say that they died a useless death because they failed to stop the drug problem.”
Gamboa said Robredo’s 18-day stint at the ICAD was too short for her to make her assessment.
“Eighteen days may not have been enough to make estimates much more assess the success or failure of this national campaign that has been waging for over three years now,” Gamboa said.
Gamboa said the war on drugs is not yet over, adding “much needs to be done along both supply and demand reduction strategies. The PNP operational thrust for 2020 will focus more on intensified intelligence-driven anti-illegal drugs operations particularly against upper and middle-level High Value Targets engaged in trafficking of commercial quantity of illegal drugs 50 grams or more,” he added.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the war on drugs, which he conceded can do so much more, had “palpable gains,” pointing out the reduced crime rate in the country.
“Admittedly the drug problem continues to bug us, but there have been palpable gains as reflected in the significant reduction in street crimes, for one,” Guevarra said.
He also touted the support of the great majority of Filipinos despite criticism from some sectors regarding the alleged abuses and human rights violation in the conduct of the anti-drug war.
“It is also important to note that a great majority of our people continue to support the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign,” Guevarra added.
Robredo on Monday said the anti-narcotics strategy is focused too much on stopping street-level pushers and users while the supply of illegal drugs such as shabu barely had a dent.
Sen. Francis Tolentino said Robredo gave a biased interpretation of the drug statistics that she was furnished because she was booted out as ICAD chair by President Duterte.
Tolentino said Robredo could have not accessed complete information on the administration’s accomplishments on the war on drugs since she only held her post for 18 days.
“Palagay ko ‘yung kulang na hawak niya (na datos) ay hindi makakapag-resulta ng isang accurate, exhaustive evaluation of what transpired during the last three years… Maaaring bias na ‘yung interpretation niya dahil naalis siya sa puwesto. So ibabalik natin, ano ang naging basehan ng pag-conclude mo na failure ang war on drugs? (To my opinion, she could not have an accurate and exhaustive evaluation of what transpired during the last three years… Her interpretation may have been biased because she was kicked out of her post as ICAD chair. So let us ask her, what was her basis in concluding that the war on drugs is a failure?)” Tolentino said.
He said Robredo might have gained access to vital information while she was still ICAD chair, but what she obtained could not have been the whole picture since she lost continued access to relevant information when she was removed.
“How can you judge something which is still on going? Ongoing pa ito eh, hindi pa naman tapos di ba? Wala pa namang cessation. (The war on drugs is still ongoing, isn’t it? It has not yet stopped),” he added.
Sen. Leila de Lima said Robredo’s report was a well-researched, data-driven and a completely objective look on Duterte’s war on drugs.
“Her further statements and responses during the presscon yesterday (Monday) reveal a deep grasp of the real drug situation, including the gaps and shortcomings in the bureaucratic structures and strategies. Her proposed directions henceforth are well thought of and doable. Credible and convincing report. VP Leni certainly knows what she’s talking about,” De Lima said in a statement.
She added that the attempt of Panelo to discredit the Robredo report even without reading it is “hypocritical of Panelo to dismiss VP Leni because she didn’t take part in any ground operations during her 18-day stint when not even the President did so in all of his 3 and a half years in office.”
“That is precisely what is wrong with this government: all politics and blusters, no substance,” she also said. – With Victor Reyes, Ashzel Hachero and Raymond Africa