Robredo failed to meet with ICAD clusters — PDEA chief

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Robredo failed to meet with ICAD clusters � PDEA chief
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino previously said he thinks Vice President Leni Robredo will fail if she will lead the government's anti-narcotics campaign.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino said on Thursday that former Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (ICAD) co-chair Leni Robredo had certain missteps during her stint as co-chair of the committee. 

"Nakita niya there is no clear baseline of drug users and drug pushers. But now Dangerous Drugs Board is determining that. We are hoping it will be consolidated by early 2020," he said at a press briefing in Malacañang. 

"Tama ang discovery ni Robredo na walang scientific baseline data ng drug users in the country. That's why DDB is doing something."

Lack of data

He was referring to Robredo's earlier remarks about the lack of accurate data on the drug problem in the country. "Ang pakiramdam [ko], parang iyong integrity ng numbers hindi masyadong puwedeng pagkatiwalaan kasi iyong, parang iyong circumstances, iyong sample size, iyong lahat iba naman,” Robredo said on November 8.

In her radio show in late November, she asserted that a campaign against drugs would not be possible without accurate information. "Hindi talaga puwedeng walang datos. Nakikita natin, iyong mga mahuhusay na LGU, talagang naging concerned sila sa datos," she said.

Robredo said the Dangerous Drugs Board placed the number of drug addicts in the country at 1.8 million based on the results of a survey it conducted in 2016. However, she pointed out that ICAD had a different and contradictory “working number” of 4 million drug users.

Aquino was careful to assert that the Dangerous Drugs Board had already recognized that error since then and was already working to address it.

And although Aquino admitted that Robredo's statement was correct, he also pointed out that the vice president made some errors of her own that he said hampered the progress of the ICAD.

One of these, Aquino said, was her failure to meet and coordinate with the different clusters under the committee.

"Siguro may missteps na nangyari sa kanya na she should have met all the four clusters. Sana plinan out niya anong gagawin ko," he said. "How would you understand everything if you're not meeting with these people tapos itong ibang agencies, minimeet mo?"

The ICAD is composed of four clusters, namely the Enforcement, Justice, Advocacy and Rehabilitation and Reintegration clusters. The PDEA, which Aquino heads, is under the first. 

'Useless numbers' 

Aquino also said that data would not have been as substantial as on-ground experience. "May data na prior to her assumption, during and after. Useless itong data na ito kasi she wasn't even involved sa ground operations [and] she did not give any directives," he said. 

Early on in her time as ICAD co-chair, Robredo announced her intent to meet with officials from the United States, the Catholic Church and the United Nations—which have been heavily critical of Duterte's campaign—to share best practices in dealing with illegal drugs.

READ: Robredo is meeting with UN reps this week. Here's what the UN has said about drugs and 'drug wars'

Duterte voiced out his dissatisfaction with this, even warning Robredo that he would remove her from her position if she were to share state secrets with foreign bodies. 

"If Robredo met with the four ICAD clusters, lalawak ang kaniyang knowledge of the drug problem. [But] she started going around rehab centers without finishing her consultation with the four ICAD clusters," Aquino added. 

"The VP failed to meet the other three clusters of ICAD. She failed to meet them when she started to meet with international groups. Na-misinform siya."

Despite this, Aquino agreed that her performance in that time was competent. "Naging okay naman ang performance niya during that time pero hindi ko talagang ma-rate siya, it [was] just two weeks," he said. 

Aquino previously said he thought Robredo would fail if she were to lead the government's anti-narcotics campaign.

READ: PDEA chief welcomes Robredo as 'drug czar' a day after saying she will fail

The PDEA chief's comments came as the PCOO released its updated numbers on the drug war.

Over 5,000 deaths

According to their Real Numbers PH initiative, a total of 5,552 drug personalities were killed in official police operations. However, rights groups and activists reject this notion, saying the number is already as high as 27,000. 

For his part, Banac welcomed the vice president's forthcoming report, saying it would assist the PNP's efforts. "Anumang ilabas ni VP Robredo sa war on drugs ay welcome sa PNP, inaasahang magagamit ito sa kampanya kontra droga," he said. 

Robredo's tenure as co-chair of the committee came after Duterte announced he would grant her law-enforcement powers for six months in response to Robredo's calls for the administration to "tweak" its approach to the drug problem, which she said was clearly not working. 

But less than three weeks in, though, Duterte removed Robredo from her position saying he did not trust her because she was part of the opposition. He said that her access to information would be limited to a "need to know" basis. 

READ: Weeks after appointment, Duterte fires Robredo from ICAD

In response, Robredo at a press conference in her hometown of Naga said that her campaign for a bloodless anti-drug campaign would continue and that she was only getting started. 

She also announced that she would soon be releasing a report including her findings and recommendations during her time as ICAD co-chair. 

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