Duterte on Santiago’s mega drug rehab comment: I was offended


MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he was offended by former Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Dionisio Santiago’s remark that the mega-drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija had been a mistake.

“He came up with a very incongruous statement that I was offended. He could have asked me for an audience and then tell me about it,” Duterte said in a press briefing before departing for Vietnam.

The chief executive stressed that he appointed Santiago as the DDB chairman “not to go open to the press and blabber.”

“Nilagay kita dyan para magpunta ka sakin kung ano ang problema ng bayan natin at turuan mo ako kung nagkulang ako at kung ano ang dapat kong gawin (I appointed you to tell me about the nation’s problems and point out where I fell short and what should I do),” he said.

Moreover, Duterte hit Santiago for not doing the “right approach” when he served as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s director general during the administrations of presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.

“You saw him in the previous administrations, he was there. Bakit hindi niya ginawa (Why didn’t he do it)?” he said.

READDDB chief resigns after comment on mega drug rehab center

Following his controversial statement, Santiago on Tuesday filed his resignation four months after being appointed by Duterte.

It was the president who ordered Santiago to tender his resignation through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

In an interview with ANC, Santiago said that the construction of the massive drug-rehabilitation facility in Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City is a “mistake” and “impractical.”

He added that the money spent to construct the rehabilitation center could have been used to fund smaller community-based anti-narcotics programs, which according to him, are proven to be more effective.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque defended the project, saying the government did not spend to build the facility because a Chinese businessman had donated funding for it.

Santiago had been appointed to replace Benjamin Reyes, whom Duterte had fired for contradicting an estimate that there were around 4 million drug addicts in the Philippines.

READ: Duterte fires drugs board chair for 'contradicting government'

According to the most recent DDB survey, there are around 1.8 million drug users in the country, not all of whom are drug dependents or addicts.

During his stint at DDB, Santiago advocated for a “softer approach” to the rehabilitation of drug users which includes the teaching of livelihood skills and launching programs in education and sports.

Santiago also served as Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.

READDDB chief: Nueva Ecija drug rehab facility a 'mistake,' 'impractical'

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