Robredo: More funds needed for anti-drug campaign

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Robredo: More funds needed for anti-drug campaign
Vice President Leni Robredo pictured as she makes her statement at Office of the Vice President in Quezon City last November 06, 2019. Robredo accepted the challenge of President Rodrigo Duterte as Drug Czar.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo shortly after her appointment as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) called for more funds to support their anti-drug campaign. 

She said that the breadth of the committee's mission warrants a more substantial budget than it was afforded. 

“Ang pondo na nakasalang [para sa ICAD] ay P15 million, tingin ko kulang ‘yun dahil sa lawak ng responsibilities,” she said Sunday in her radio program, Biserbisyong Leni. 

“Humihingi rin [kami] ng pondo para ma-implement rin itong anti-drug strategy.”

(The allotted fund for ICAD is P15 million. The way I see it, that's just not enough because of how big our responsibilities are. We're asking for funds, too, so we can implement our anti-drug strategy.) 

Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay), a fellow member of the Liberal Party, backed Robredo's call for additional finances.

“The multimillion-peso funds appropriated to sustain the bloody war on illegal drugs and related intelligence outlays embedded in the proposed 2020 appropriations for the Philippine National Police (PNP) should be specifically reallocated to ICAD to support Robredo’s non-violent and innovative approaches to solve the drug menace,” he said.

He said that only a “measly amount of P15 million” for ICAD was included under PDEA’s "miscellaneous and other operating expenses."

This comes days after her appointment to her new post.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Saturday told reporters that “she should really watch her back all the time" because "[Sa] napasukan niya siyempre maraming character."

Robredo recently announced that she would be looking to officials from the United States and the United Nations to share data, experience and best practices in dealing with the problem of illegal drugs. 

In her radio show, she expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of accurate statistics to properly measure the severity of the drug problem in the country. 

“Until now, nagiiba-iba ‘yung numbers kung ilan talaga ‘yung drug addicts. Halimbawa, ‘yung survey nung 2016, 1.6 million," Robredo said.

"Sabi ni Presidente [Duterte,] seven to eight million. Ang ginagamit ng PDEA na figures four million. Pero itong lahat based sa estimates."

(Until now, the number of drug addicts keeps changing. For instance, the survey in 2016 said 1.6 million. What President Duterte said was seven to eight million. The PDEA uses a figure of four million. But this is all based on estimates.) 

As early as her first official meeting with her new committee, Robredo said she wants some changes in the government's campaign, which has raised concerns on human rights and due process.

Despite warnings from her fellow senators and members of the minority Liberal Party, Robredo decided to accept the president's offer to appoint her as 'drug czar'.

"Kahit sabihin na natin na ang alok na ito ay pamumulitika lamang at hindi naman talaga akong susundin ng mga ahensya, [ay] handa akong tiisin ang lahat na ito," she said when she announced she was accepting the offer.

"Dahil kung mayroon akong maliligtas na kahit isang inosenteng buhay, ang sinasabi ng prinsipyo at puso ko ay kailangan ko itong subukan."

(Even if we suppose that this offer is simply politicking and these agencies would not even follow me, I am ready to endure all of this. Because if I can save even one innocent life, my principles and my heart tell me that I need to try.) 

Figures from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency dated March 2019, the most recent data available on its website, acknowledges that at least 5,375 "drug personalities" have been slain in official police operations since July 2016.

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