MANILA – Malacañang on Wednesday said Vice President Robredo seemed to have misunderstood the "palit-ulo" scheme.
In a video message, Robredo claimed that under the “palit-ulo” (swap heads) scheme, authorities would take a family member instead in case the original person on the drug list cannot be found.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, however, said Robredo’s statements are unfounded.
“Eight months into our campaign against illegal drugs, Vice President Robredo, suddenly refers to an alleged ‘palit-ulo’ scheme - which she mistakenly describes as substituting a relative for a missing drug personality,” Abella said in a statement.
“While she has the right to speak freely on matters of public concern, she also has the responsibility to be careful with her statements especially avoiding unfounded allegations from questionable sources.”
According to Abella, while the palito-ulo scheme exists, this involves “a commitment of a drug suspect to provide assistance in the arrest of a ‘bigger fish’ in the illegal drug syndicate.”
Abella said, the bigger fish could be an “up-line, superior or supplier of the arrested suspect.” Under the scheme, he added, an arrested drug suspect could plea for lighter charges.
Robredo made her claim in video message that was scheduled to be played at the 60th annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria.
In her video message, Robredo also urged President Rodrigo Duterte to re-focus his campaign against poverty instead.
Robredo said the Philippines' drug problem should not be treated as "one that can be solved with bullets alone," stating that it is foremost a public health issue.
She said the drug problem must be regarded as a complex public health issue linked with poverty and social inequality.
Robredo enumerated alleged human rights abuses being committed by authorities, mostly in poverty-stricken areas in Metro Manila, in the war on illegal drugs.
"Communities are rounded up in places like basketball courts, women separated from men, those with tattoos asked to stand in the corner, their belongings searched," Robredo said.