Bets rush to take drug tests in wake of Duterte's cocaine comments

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Bets rush to take drug tests in wake of Duterte's cocaine comments
This undated file photo shows drug test kits
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte's off-the-cuff comments that a candidate for president does cocaine has raised questions about the "drug war" and has prompted candidates to subject themselves to drug tests.

Vice President Leni Robredo has said that she is ready to submit to unannounced drug tests, saying at an event in Bulacan that scheduled ones would be self-serving,

"You should have had the drug test randomly — unannounced. Unannounced because we know that it's better to be random, it's better to be unannounced so that you get what your real situation is," Robredo, who is running for president, told reporters in Filipino. 

"It’s a little self-serving because when I submit, isn’t it, I will submit for a drug test. But anytime someone approaches me to request that I undergo one, I will go anytime," she also said. 

Asked where candidates should secure tests, Robredo said: "Anywhere the public trusts that, that's okay. Because it doesn’t matter if it’s public or private as long as we have confidence in the legitimacy and also the accuracy of the test."

In related comments, former congressman Walden Bello — vice-presidential candidate in a tandem with labor leader Leody de Guzman under Laban ng Masa — said that he and De Guzman would be willing to take drug tests if required by the Commission on Elections.

"But I refuse to participate in a circus to clean up the image of the asshole [Ferdinand Marcos Jr.]," he also said on his Twitter account. "Can you really trust a drug test result produced by him?"

Marcos, whose campaign has repeatedly said he does not feel alluded to in Duterte's comments, released to media on Tuesday what his campaign said were results of a test for cocaine, where he tested negative.

Candidates rush to display negative drug test results

Conversations surrounding drug tests for election aspirants were sparked after Duterte publicly accused a candidate of doing cocaine. The president did not mention any names.

Sens. Manny Pacquiao, Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III — candidates for president and vice president — have since undergone voluntary drug tests.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who is running for vice president alongside Marcos, has done the same. In a statement on Wednesday, she said she took the drug test upon Marcos's request.

"As important as the war against illegal drugs is, other compelling issues continue to challenge our country’s ability to provide long-term safety and security for our people. Therefore, it is crucial in this electoral season that we focus on the substantial qualifications of those that seek to lead our country," she also said.

Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno, who is running for president, has also indicated his willingness to do so.

The chief of the Philippine National Police said he supported the "initiative" of election candidates.

“We will document the results, of course. It’s good that they are serving as good examples to the public,” Police Gen. Dionardo Carlos said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the PNP's Forensic Group was willing to assist with any request from candidates to undergo a drug test.

"This, however, won’t stop the PNP  from initiating an investigation in case there is valuable information that will link a candidate to the illegal drug trade or drug use."

RELATED: Robredo says to continue anti-drug campaign, 'Build, Build, Build,' but with tweaks

What have candidates said about illegal drugs?

Robredo and Moreno have said they would continue Duterte's signature anti-narcotics campaign but without the extrajudicial killings linked to it. 

"It cannot be just focused on enforcement alone. We saw over the past five and a half years, a lot have died. But the question is, did drugs disappear? The answer is no," Robredo said in October. 

In 2020, Moreno deflected questions about the "drug war" and said he was in no position to comment. 

RELATED: If he wins presidency, Moreno to allow int'l probers to PH for 'drug war' investigation

"I think with that you have to give an 'A' for the effort. That is not a joke, the problem with drugs is deeply entrenched," he said partly in Filipino in an interview aired over ABS-CBN News Channel.

He went on to praise Duterte's drug war, under which police data acknowledges 6,100 deaths in official operations. 

"I am nobody to assess everything especially if I don't have the entire picture of the problem. Because it is quite unfair for the effort that [is] being done because nobody tried to confront this except President Rodrigo Roa Duterte."

Pacquiao, who recently admitted to being a "naive" drug user in his youth, has pushed for re-instituting the death penalty as the solution to the country's rampant drug problem.

Duterte-Carpio in a statement sent to media claimed that she and Marcos shared a "common stance against the proliferation of illegal drugs and the need for effective measures of prevention, rehabilitation, and enforcement."

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