VP, senators object to Duterte’s talk of harsher war on drugs
Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday assailed President Duterte’s statement that his war on drugs would be harsher in the coming days, saying the problem of illegal drugs remained unsolved even in the wake of thousands of deaths since the beginning of his administration.
Speaking to reporters in Cebu City, Robredo said government efforts must instead focus on cutting off the supply of illegal drugs from international cartels that make their way to the streets and the hands of small-time drug users and pushers.
“We have to learn from what happened in the last two and a half years,” she said. “So many lives have been lost, but we have not solved the drug problem. Is this not enough proof that violence and killing will not [solve] the drug [problem]?”
Robredo said small-time users should be considered victims in the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs.
“We should punish those who bring drugs [into] the country. The question is, how did illegal drugs even enter the country in the first place?” she said.
Senators also warned against the President’s pronouncement, saying his controversial war on drugs could lead to more collateral damage if certain processes are not corrected, or that it would not deal with the root of the problem at all.
“We really have to caution the administration in ensuring that it focuses on certain methods, as it is clear that there are instances of botched operations and wrong implementation of the law,” Sen. Joel Villanueva said on Thursday.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros objected to the President’s vow to be harsher, saying this would just intensify the sadness, fear and rejection of such an approach to a social and economic problem.
From the start, she said she had been saying that the illegal drug problem must be treated not just as a law enforcement problem, but as a public health matter as well.
National security level
Malacañang, however, defended Duterte’s statement, saying he had raised the drug problem in the country to a national security level because of the rampant entry of illegal drugs and the 3 million Filipinos addicted to drugs.
“Despite the arrest [of drug pushers], they (drug syndicates) are still there. That’s why [the President] has raised it to a national security level,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Thursday.
Panelo said, however, that the President would not resort to martial law because “he still has many measures that he can do to quell the present threat on the drug industry.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Duterte’s intensified campaign against illegal drugs only meant “everybody must be involved.”
At a press conference on Thursday in Camp Crame, Año said the recent recovery of cocaine from Philippine waters meant the country had become a transshipment point for international drug syndicates.
“It would be difficult if aside from ‘shabu’ (crystal meth), cocaine enters the country,” he said in Filipino.
“So what we need is for everybody to get involved now and this is the priority of the President [to] ask all the security forces, including the Coast Guard and the Navy, to make sure that our archipelago is guarded,” Año said, expressing bafflement at the idea that cocaine has infiltrated the country. —REPORTS FROM JHESSET O. ENANO, LEILA B. SALAVERRIA, CHRISTINE O. AVENDANO AND JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE
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