MANILA—The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has rejected the recommendation of Vice President Leni Robredo in leading the government’s inter-agency anti-drugs committee.
For the DDB, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is the right chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) since it implements the government's anti-drug programs.
"It is but proper that PDEA chairs the ICAD, which is operational in nature since it creates an inter-agency mechanism that will unify the implementation of anti-drug priorities by the different government agencies," DDB said in a statement released Monday.
Robredo earlier said that the DDB should take ICAD's helm, saying it was better equipped in crafting a more balanced approach against the country's narcotics problems.
The ICAD was created by President Rodrigo Duterte in March 2017 through an executive order to ensure the effective conduct of anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of "high-value drug personalities down to the street level peddlers and users."
The DDB also stressed it was already leading the Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy (PADS), a policy framework that aims to boost the government's anti-drugs campaign.
"It reaffirms the DDB’s mandate as the highest policy-making body on drug abuse prevention and control, which is stipulated under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9165)," the agency said.
It added, "The public must know that ICAD captures the objectives and the intentions of PADS as it plots and implements its anti-drug priorities. Therefore, DDB does not encounter problems in terms of harmonizing priorities in support of the anti-drug campaign."
The PADS was also created by the President through an executive order in Oct. 2018, "which outlines the balanced efforts of the government to strengthen its campaign against prohibited drugs and their precursors, and contribute to international efforts to counter the worldwide illegal drug problem.”
In its statement, the DDB also said it was conducting a survey to determine the extent of drug use in the country, which would be released within the first semester of the year.
"Once and for all, this will address questions on what data to use as to the number of drug users in the country," it said.
The Vice President, in one of her findings released Monday, questioned the confusion over the actual numbers of drug users in the country.
ICAD earlier said there were some 4 million drug users in the country, but President Rodrigo Duterte pegged it at 7 to 8 million.
Meanwhile, 2 Duterte allies—Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco and Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go—slammed Robredo's findings following the latter's short stint with ICAD.
"It would be a lie to say that President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is a complete failure, producing only dismal results," Velasco said in a statement.
For his part, Go said Robredo's recommendations could instead worsen the country's narcotics problem.
"Siguro kung si VP Leni pa rin ang nakaupong co-chair ng ICAD, mas dadami pa ang supply ng shabu dahil hindi matatakot ang drug lords sa kaniyang iminumungkahing stratehiya," he said.
Go added, "Hindi po madadaan sa salita lamang ang laban sa ilegal na droga. Dapat takutin, dapat handang pumatay ng masama para sa kabutihan ng mga inosenteng Pilipinong apektado dito."
Duterte in Nov. 2019 designated Robredo as co-chair of ICAD, only to fire her after 18 days due to alleged missteps, including a meeting with UN officials supposedly critical of the campaign.