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'Drug war' implementors dismiss Robredo ICAD report as 'mere political attack'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
'Drug war' implementors dismiss Robredo ICAD report as 'mere political attack'
In this photo from October 3, 2019, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino and Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa talk at a hearing at the Senate.
Senate PRIB / Cesar Tomambo, file

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:55 p.m.) — Both Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa on Monday slammed Vice President Leni Robredo's criticisms of President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called war on drugs as a political attack.

This came after Robredo held a press conference to present her report detailing her recommendations after time as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (ICAD), where she labelled President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs as a “total failure.”

"Saan galing yung data niya? Or baka ang pinipili lang nya na data ay yung nakakasira sa gobyerno," Sen. Dela Rosa, former chief of the Philippine National Police, said in a message to reporters. "Hindi ko siya maintindihan." 

(Where did her data come from? Or maybe she only chose the data that can make the government look bad. I don't understand her.) 

Earlier Monday, Robredo said government data on the 'drug war' was 'inconsistent'. She said the ICAD uses an estimate of 4 million drug users in the Philippines and not the "seven to eight million" that Duterte claimed in 2019 and that agencies involved in the so-called war on drugs backed.

READ: Robredo points out 'inconsistent' government data on 'drug war'

After presenting data that only 1% of the shabu supply in the country had been recovered between 2017 and 2018, Robredo said the government should instead focus on arresting drug lords instead of small-time drug pushers. 

Dela Rosa initially led the president's bloody campaign against illegal drugs and was director general of the national police when 17-year-old Kian delos Santos was murdered by Caloocan City cops who claimed he was a drug runner in 2017.

On Sunday, Dela Rosa in an interview said that "another Duterte" would be needed to continue the drug war after the current Chief Executive's term ends.  

"Baka ayaw niya ng data na na gumaganda ang imahe ng gobyerno," he added. 

(Maybe she ignores data that paints the government in a good light.) 

Conflicting numbers 

PDEA Director General Aquino told reporters that he "[saw] her recommendations as a mere political attack against President Rodrigo Duterte."

"As far as PDEA is concerned, the metrics for the success of the anti-illegal drug campaign is drug clearing, crime index, trust rating and operational accomplishments," he added.

"To date, PDEA cleared 16,707 barangays of illegal drugs out of 33,881 or 49.13 percent."

At an earlier press conference where Aquino was present, the PDEA chief said that "maybe about 55%" of the country's barangays have been cleared of illegal narcotics. Under Dangerous Drugs Board guidelines, an area is drug free if there is no drug supply, pusher or user in the area.

"Drug free" barangays should also have anti-drug programs, including a drug treatment and rehabilitation processing desk.

"We are over halfway on our target para ma-cleared yung barangay by 2022," Aquino said on December 12.

He said at the time that the metric used to measure progress is the drug-clearing efforts of the barangays. 

READ: Robredo points out 'inconsistent' government data on 'drug war' 

Also reported at the briefing were the recent numbers on the drug war: from the period between July 1, 2016 to November 30, 2019, they said, a total of 151,601 anti-illegal drug operations were conducted which resulted in 220,728 arrests on top of the aforementioned casualties. 

Robredo during the release of her report echoed the same sentiment she had been baring since her time as ICAD co-chair: that the existing data from government agencies conflicted each other and thus had no integrity to inform decisions. 

READ: Robredo failed to meet with ICAD clusters — PDEA chief

At a separate press conference on December 12, though, Aquino affirmed the vice president's notion that there was no clear baseline for data on the drug problem. 

"Tama ang discovery ni Robredo na walang scientific baseline data ng drug users in the country," he said. "Nakita niya there is no clear baseline of drug users and drug pushers."

(Robredo's discovery that there was no scientific baseline data on drug users in the country is correct. She saw there was no clear baseline.) 

A mere political attack?

Duterte himself brought politics into the fray when he announced he would limit the information available to the Vice President to a "need to know" basis. He said he did not trust her because she was part of the opposition. 

At a press conference earlier that day, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo also slammed the vice president's report as a "dud" owing to her short time in her position and lack of experience in the campaign against illegal drugs. 

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

Despite welcoming Robredo's appointment at the time, Aquino previously said he thought she would fail if she were to lead the government's anti-narcotics campaign.

Robredo later called Aquino out for being two-faced on her radio show, claiming the latter would tell her one thing in person and say the opposite when speaking to the media. 

RELATED: The War on Drugs: In-depth reports and analyses on the government's bloody anti-narcotics campaign

Aquino also pointed out that the trust ratings of the president and the survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations showed that Filipinos approved of the 'drug war.'

"Ibig sabihin tama ang ginagawa ng ating national government," Aquino said. "How can she still claim it's a failure?"

Despite the statistics presented, activists say that over 27,000 have lost their lives in summary executions tied to the drug war, in contrary to the number claimed by the PNP. 

PDEA CHIEF AARON AQUINO

SEN. RONALD DELA ROSA

VICE PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO

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