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DDB chief Santiago sacked

File photo shows the 10,000-bed Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center at Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija, which Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Dionisio Santiago (right) described as a "mistake" and "impractical."

DAVAO CITY, MANILA, Philippines — Days after describing a mega drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija as “impractical” and “a mistake,” Dionisio Santiago is out as chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

Santiago was reportedly instructed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to tender his resignation on orders of President Duterte.

The DDB chief submitted his irrevocable resignation barely four months after he was appointed to the post last July.

“I was told to tell you to go,” Santiago quoted Medialdea as having told him over the telephone last Monday.

Santiago said he told Medialdea he respected the President’s decision and understood the reason for it.

The ex-DDB chief, however, claimed that the President was given the wrong information about his statements on the rehabilitation center.

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“I have served in the government for 40 years. This is not the way out that I expected,” Santiago admitted.

He packed his personal things and left his DDB office yesterday. Sources said Duterte was not pleased when Santiago said that the 10,000-bed capacity drug rehabilitation center at Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija was a mistake.

In an interview with ANC last week, Santiago said that the construction of the facility was “impractical” and “a mistake.”

Ang problema, naging excited si President, pero ’yung ginasta dun puwedeng ginamit sa mga community-based rehab ’yan na maliliit (The problem is that the President got excited, but the money could have been spent to finance smaller, community-based rehabilitation programs), which can accommodate only between 150 to 200,” Santiago said in the interview.

Masyadong malaki ’yung 5,000. Saan ka kukuha niyan? (Five thousand people is too many. Where will those individuals come from?)” he added.

The Nueva Eciija rehabilitation center was donated by a Chinese businessman and the President has repeatedly mentioned this in his speeches in the past months.

To give Santiago at least a “graceful exit,” Medialdea was tasked to relay to him that the President wanted him to resign.

Medialdea then informed Santiago of the wishes of the President that he step down from office as soon as possible.

Santiago, a retired general, is also a former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief. He ran for senator under Duterte’s slate in the May 2016 polls. 

It was Santiago whom the President would always quote when he mentions the “four million drug addicts” in connection with the administration’s war against illegal drugs. 

Santiago was also a former Bureau of Corrections chief.  – With Emmanuel Tupas

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