BY VICTOR REYES and GERARD NAVAL
WHAT, or who, is in the narcotics intelligence list?
Liberal Party Vice President Erin Tañada raised this question yesterday amid resistance from ranking members of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) that Vice President Leni Robredo be furnished a copy of the government’s list of high-value suspected drug lords.
“May dapat bang ikatakot o itinatago ang pamahalaang Duterte kaya itinatago nito ang hawak na intelligence report kay Vice President Leni Robredo? (Is the Duterte administration afraid of or hiding something in the intelligence report that they refuse to give to Vice President Leni Robredo?),” Tañada asked in a statement.
“Kung wala silang pinagtatakpan, napakadali lang na ilabas ang nasabing intelligence report para sa kaalaman ni VP Leni bilang Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (If they are not covering up something, it will be very easy to give a copy of that intelligence report to VP Leni who is the co-chair of the ICAD),” he added.
Tañada insisted that “depriving VP Leni of needed intelligence report will render her blind in the performance of her duty. Paano mo lalalabanan ang iligal na droga kung hindi mo alam kung sino ang iyong makakalaban? (How can you fight illegal drugs if you do not know who you are up against?)”
Tañada challenged the Duterte government to “give what VP Leni needs to make the war against drugs effective” and said that “if the government won’t do it, then it is really setting up the Vice President to fail.”
The former congressman issued his statements after Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief and ICAD chair Aaron Aquino refused to give Robredo a copy of the committee’s narco-list, which the Vice President requested last week to help her craft new policies and strategies in the campaign against illegal drugs.
Aquino said the list contains confidential information, adding that not everyone should have a copy of the list because operations will be compromised if the list falls on wrong hands.
Even PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa yesterday opposed Robredo’s request, as he pointed out that ICAD was a mere collegial body that is supposed to be involved only in policy-making.
Interviewed in Camp Crame, Gamboa said: “You are supposed to review. Fine, if you want to review the law enforcement campaign. But would it really matter if you know who are on the list?”
Gamboa suggested that Robredo instead focus on advocacy and rehabilitation, which are two of the four thrusts of ICAD. The two other thrusts are law enforcement and prosecution.
“Why would the VP not take the advocacy and the rehabilitation? It’s in line with her previous statements that illegal drugs are actually a health problem, so that can fall on advocacy and rehabilitation,” Gamboa said.
“But law enforcement and prosecution or on the justice could be best left to those who know it – which is the PNP, PDEA, NBI for law enforcement and DOJ for justice,” he added.
HIGHER DOH BUDGET VS DRUG ABUSE
Robredo yesterday pushed for a higher budget for the Department of Health (DOH) to enhance its capabilities to provide a health-based solution to the illegal drugs menace in the country.
Speaking to reporters after her two-hour closed door meeting with DOH officials, Robredo said there is a need to increase the budget of the health department if it is to address the challenges it is facing in helping drug dependents.
“I think there is a real need to give the DOH a higher budget so that they can do what they have to do,” Robredo said.
She said having a higher budget will help the DOH attend to more drug dependents by
having more drug rehabilitation facilities nationwide.
“There is an existing shortage facing the DOH. The program is there but the resources are lacking,” she said.
Robredo also said having more drug rehabilitation facilities will help address the problem of “contamination” which happens when drug dependents and pushers are mixed together.
“In the rehabilitation centers, the problem of contamination is big. So they are requesting that there will be bigger facilities so that the users won’t be mixed with the pushers,” she said.
Robredo also said having a larger budget will allow the DOH to fill up its manpower shortages.
“They need more human resources. The more personnel they have, the more significant the rehabilitation program there will be,” she said.
Robredo said they are also looking to establish a system of regular visits to drug rehabilitation facilities to personally see the conditions of the patients.
In a separate interview, DOH Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo disclosed that 15 out of the 17 regions in the country already have existing drug rehabilitation facilities.
He said that the two regions without drug rehabilitation facilities are MIMAROPA and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
On the other hand, Bayugo said the National Capital Region and Central Visayas both have two drug rehabilitation facilities each.
“(Our goal is) at least one in every region,” said Bayugo.
Currently, the health official said there is an estimated 4,000 patients in the existing drug rehabilitation facilities all over the country.
He said they will be need an estimated P100 million to P200 million to construct a drug rehabilitation facility.
As for the operations of those existing already, Bayugo said it ranges from P12 milllion to P80 million depending on the size of the facility.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had earlier admitted that the DOH still lacks the human resources and drug rehabilitation facilities to attend to all the drug dependents in the country.
Meanwhile, CBCP – Public Affairs Committee Executive Secretary Fr. Jerome Secillano expressed openness to meet with Robredo to discuss a possible partnership on the revamped campaign against illegal drugs.
Secillano said it is a welcome move from the Vice President who wants to tap other institutions to help in the war against drugs.
“The drug problem is not only the concern of our government. It affects society as a whole and its many institutions,” said Secillano, adding: “It’s wise for VP Leni to ask the help of everyone who she deems capable of effectively addressing the drug menace.”
In forging partnerships, however, the priest stressed that it is necessary for each party to have clearly defined roles.
Secillano noted how the Church is unlikely to go beyond its capacity in helping victims of drug abuse.
“In asking for CBCP’s help, it is best to discuss the parameters and the kind of involvement the Church will play in this issue. Clarity of roles is important so as not to defeat the purpose of stomping out illegal drugs in our midst,” he said.
“If it is within the Church’s expertise, I don’t think the Church will forego the opportunity to be of help,” Secillano added.
Over the weekend, Robredo bared her plans to ask for the help of the CBCP and other advocacy groups, under a revived Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan (UBAS) partnership, as part of a remodeled campaign versus illegal drugs.
The CBCP – Public Affairs Committee serves as the liaison body of the CBCP in discussions and forums regarding matters that affect Church-State relations.