‘Tinamad na ba si President?’: Lacson questions ‘minuscule’ 2021 fund for ‘drug war’
MANILA, Philippines — “Tinamad na ba si President sa fight against illegal drugs?”
This was the question posed by Senator Panfilo Lacson Tuesday as he lamented the “minuscule” 2021 budget earmarked for the government’s national strategy to combat the country’s drug problem.
During the Senate hearing on the proposed budget of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Dangerous Drug Board (DDB), Lacson raised the P2-billion allocation for the Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy (PADS).
“’Yung (The) drug problem, one of the top priorities of the administration. When the President took over in 2016, and that’s the reason why he issued EO (Executive Order) 66, ‘di ba (right)?” asked Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
He was referring to Duterte’s EO in 2018 that institutionalized the PADS.
“Ang hindi ko lang ma-reconcile ay ‘yung P2 billion-plus budget for PADS, and this is a multi-agency approach ha. I-compare mo sa P4.5 trillion budget, ilang percent ‘yun?” the senator added.
(What I can’t reconcile is the P2 billion-plus budget for PADS, and this is a multi-agency approach. Compared to the P4.5 trillion budget, how many percent is that?)
Lacson also pointed out that of the P2 billion budget allocation for PADS, P1.2 billion will be given to the Department of Health while P664 million will be given to the Department of Interior and Local Government, including P546 million for the PNP.
“Ano ba ang treatment as per your strategy? Is this more of a law enforcement issue than a health issue?”
(What is your treatment as per strategy? Is this more of a law enforcement issue than a health issue.)
“So, sa law enforcement, ang component niya 25 percent. Is that really the strategy?” he further asked.
(So, in law enforcement, its component is 25 percent. Is that really the strategy?)
In response, DDB Undersecretary Benjamin Reyes told the senator that addressing the drug problem should be a “balanced approach.”
He said that DDB coordinated with 61 agencies, which submitted to them their respective work and financial plans for the PADS.
However, only the work and financial plans of four agencies were included under the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the Department of Budget and Management to Congress.
Lacson then pressed Reyes on the government’s approach in the fight against illegal drugs, pointing out that 50 percent of the proposed budget for PADS will go to the health sector while only 25 percent will be given to law enforcement.
Reyes stressed: “Dapat talagang (It should really be) 50/50. You cannot leave behind one component.”
Lacson agreed with Reyes, saying that the government’s approach to its campaign against illegal drugs should be “in sync.”
“So, why would the national government, the executive branch, kung san nanggaling itong NEP, bakit ganon, parang hindi logical ‘yung hatian ng pondo pagdating sa strategy?” Lacson pointed out.
(So why would the national government, the executive branch, where the NEP emanates, why is it that the allocation for these funds is not logical?)
“So kaya nga gumawa ng strategy, ‘yun ang guiding light mo.”
(The reason for coming up with a strategy is that it serves as your guiding light.)
“Kung ito (drug war) ‘yung top priority, bakit ganon kaliit ‘yung binibigay sa PADS?” he added.
(If this is the priority, why allocate such a small amount to PADS?)
Lacson said the issue of the small budget allocation for PADS will be raised by his colleagues once the proposed budget reaches the plenary for further deliberation.
“This is a policy ssue kaya pagdating ng plenary debate. Kung ang policy natin ay nasa top priority natin ‘yung laban sa illegal drugs, bakit minuscule ‘yung budget na binigay sa PADS?” he said.
(This is a policy ssue kaya pagdating ng plenary debate. If our policy is that the drug war is one of the top priorities, why is the budget for PADS minuscule?)
“Parang hindi naka-synchronize ‘yung mga PAPs (program, activity, project) dun sa overall strategy ng laban sa illegal drugs. Because that’s the Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy, ‘di ba (right)? Ba’t pa tayo nag-issue ng EO 66? Ang tatanungin ko sana, tinamad na ba si President sa fight against illegal drugs?” Lacson further asked.
(It seems that the PAPs of the government are not synchronized with the overall strategy for the fight against illegal drugs. Because that’s the Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy right? Why did we even issue EO 66? I actually want to ask, is the President slacking in the fight against illegal drugs?)
Responding to this, Reyes said he believes the government’s war on drugs is still being prioritized by the President.
“In his every pronouncement kasama pa rin ang (he still talks about drugs) drugs,” the DDB official said.
But Lacson pointed out that making a pronouncement and actually supporting the campaign are two different things.
“Madaling magsabi na ‘Galit ako sa drugs.’ Pero kung hindi po binabudgetan, papaano matatalo ‘yung drugs?” the senator stressed.
(It’s easy to say that ‘I hate drugs.’ But if you won’t allocate the correct budget to address the problem, how can we beat it?)
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