Leni: Chance to correct mistakes in anti-drugs war

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    BY WENDELL VIGILIA
    and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    VICE President Leni Robredo yesterday challenged the new co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee against Illegal Drugs (ICAD) to admit shortcomings of President Duterte’s anti-narcotics war.

    Robredo occupied the post for 19 days last year before President Duterte sacked her. After her firing, she released a report of her findings, and said Duterte’s war against the illegal drugs trade was a massive failure.

    “Sana may acceptance noong pagkukulang noong nauna. Sana moving forward, maging data-driven na, maging evidence-based iyong pag-desisyon, para nakikita natin kung ano talaga iyong pangangailangan base sa kung ano iyong datos na nandiyan (I’m hoping that there will be an acceptance of the past shortcomings. I hope that moving forward, the decision-making will be data-driven and evidence-based to allow us to see what really is lacking based on the available data),” Robredo told reporters in Tanay, Rizal.

    She was addressing Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, who was appointed as ICAD co-chair on February 21. The Palace made the announcement on February 28.

    Robredo said Jimenez’ appointment gives the government “an opportunity to correct its past mistakes.”

    The Vice President said she would not force Jimenez to accept the findings in her report but he could use it as a starting point if he wants to.

    Yesterday, Jimenez told a briefing in Malacañang he is not aware of Robredo’s basis for concluding the drugs war is a failure but added the claim “is not true.”

    He said there has been a lot of success in the war on drugs as proven by the number of people who have either surrendered or have been neutralized, and the number of illegal drug laboratories that had been closed down.

    Jimenez, in accepting the appointment, issued an acceptance statement which he signed and stamped with his blood. He said this is to symbolize and represent the thousands of victims of illegal drugs.

    Robredo said the war on drugs has been under implementation for three years now without a clear database, metrics, and targets for all drug-related cases.

    Robredo urged Jimenez to set aside politics, saying nothing good will come out of his office once he engages in politicking.

    She has called the war on drugs a failure because it only focused on a single aspect, which was the street-level enforcement “or going after small drug pushers.”

    In the report after the President fired, Robredo said “Oplan: Tokhang,” which has become synonymous with drug-related killings, “must be abandoned in favor of a reinvigorated policy on anti-illegal drug enforcement that strongly promotes and ensures accountability and transparency.”

    Robredo said the introduction of Tokhang, where the police conduct house-to-house visits as part of the institution’s anti-drug operations, was “unprecedented” especially since “there were no clear guidelines and protocols on how this was going to be implemented.”

    She said the lack of guidelines, together with the wide discretion that was given to the police, “provided an opening for a number of unscrupulous individuals to commit abuses, tainting the integrity of the whole institution in the process.”