Malacañang on Monday dismissed Vice President Leni Robredo’s findings and recommendations on the illegal drugs campaign as “a dud”, stressing that she was only trying to be “relevant.”
Robredo claimed anew that the Duterte administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs is a “failure” because authorities have seized less than one percent of shabu (crystal meth) since 2016.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, said what he considered a “failure” was Robredo’s 18-day stint as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
“Palagay ko failure yung pag-upo niya (I think the failure was her appointment there),” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
He criticized Robredo for implying that her findings contained irregularities she was about to expose when in fact there was clearly nothing new about her report.
“If you notice when she was threatening (about) this report, she implied na meron siyang mga nadiskubreng iregularidad na akala mo’y bombang sasabog sa mukha (that she discovered irregularities you’d think was a bomb that would explode on your face),” Panelo said.
“It’s a dud. Wala naman siyang sinabi dun na bago na hindi tinututukan ng mga ahensiyang involved laban sa droga (She didn’t say anything new which the drug-related agencies are not already addressing),” he added.
Robredo was supposed to release her findings and recommendations on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs last Dec. 16 but postponed it due to the magnitude 6.9 quake that hit Davao del Sur.
Panelo earlier questioned why it took Robredo so long to release the findings, insinuating that her findings could be “fabricated”.
Not a failure
Citing police data, Robredo said only one percent of shabu has been seized in the three-year drug war because around 3,000 kilos of shabu is consumed in the country every week or around 156,000 kilos per year.
Data from the PDEA showed it only seized 1,344 kilos shabu from January to October 2019; 785 kilos in 2018; and 1,053 kilos in 2017, she said.
Robredo added that according to estimates from the Philippine National Police (PNP), around PHP1.3 trillion worth of shabu circulates in the country every year. However, law enforcement only apprehended PHP1.4 billion worth of illegal drugs.
Panelo, however, said this did not immediately mean that the drug campaign is a failure but that there is more work to do.
He explained that it was easy for illegal drugs to enter the country being composed of many islands, but noted that despite this, they were still being captured by authorities.
“Hindi totally eradicated simply because marami pa ring pumapasok pero yung mga pumapasok, nahuhuli pa rin natin (It’s not totally eradicated simply because there are many illegal drugs coming in, but they continue to be caught),” Panelo said.
“It doesn’t mean na (that) failure kahit na (even if it’s just) one percent,” he added, stressing that Robredo failed to see the drug war’s many accomplishments such as having dismantled illegal drug factories, caused the surrender of drug addicts and pushers, and the neutralization of high-value target drug suspects.
He said Robredo also failed to see the thousands of dysfunctional families by reason of the drug syndicate and only focused on families who have lost loved ones involved in the illegal drug trade.
“I think she just wants to be relevant,” he said.
Among her recommendations, Robredo said instead of the PDEA, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) should chair the ICAD because it focuses on anti-drug policies while the former focuses on law enforcement.
Panelo shrugged off her recommendation, insisting she could not simply rely on her gut feeling.
“What is her basis for saying that? Did she explain? Bakit yan ang feeling niya (Why does she feel that way)? Wrong feeling,” Panelo said. He said Robredo should have consulted with agencies under the ICAD if they were amenable to her suggestion.
“Sila yung mga nandun sa baba, sila ang magsasabi kung okay yung kaniyang rekomendasyon (They’re the ones on the ground, they’re the ones to say whether her recommendations are okay),” Panelo said.
“These are people knowledgeable given the fact that they’ve been there in the last three and a half years. Sila ang nagbibigay ng rekomendasyon (They give the recommendations),” he added.
Panelo, however, said the Palace remains open to her findings and recommendations if useful.
“This is not to say however na kung meron siyang matinong, magandang mungkahe, hindi natin siya iko-consider (that if she is good suggestions, we won’t consider them),” Panelo said.
“So far, ang nakita ko walang basis (But so far, what I see is there’s no basis),” he added.
Should be thankful
Asked if Robredo’s findings would affect the President’s high trust and approval ratings, Panelo said Duterte’s ratings continued to soar amid criticism from the opposition.
“Nakita mo naman kahit na anong banat nila, naging 87 percent nga, lalo ngang lumaki e (You can see that no matter how much they criticize, his trust rating reached 87 percent, it even increased),” Panelo said.
He, however, said Robredo’s higher trust and approval ratings could be attributed to her drug czar stint.
“Tumaas yung rating ni VP Leni. Tumaas lang yun kasi nabigyan siya ng pagkakataon na maging relevant. Inappoint siya e (Her ratings even increased. It only increased because she was given the opportunity to be relevant. She was appointed),” Panelo said.
“Prior to that, diba bagsak siya ng bagsak. Dapat nga nagpapasalamat siya kay Presidente (her ratings were dropping. She should even thank the President),” he added.
Robredo was appointed as co-chair at ICAD on Oct. 31 to help Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino in efforts to curb the drug menace.
She was fired 19 days later due to alleged “missteps” such as meeting with foreign personalities and groups that have prejudged the drug war and failing to present new measures in curbing the drug proliferation in the country.
Earlier, Panelo said Robredo accepting the role as drug czar was a “golden opportunity” that could even propel her into the presidency. (PNA)