Duterte budgets heavy on enforcement, not on drug rehab: Robredo report

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2020 02:52 PM

Vice President Leni Robredo delivers her report on her brief stint as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs in Quezon City on Jan. 6, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- The Duterte administration spent less on rehabilitation in the past 3 years while focusing heavily on law enforcement, “contravening” its own carefully crafted strategy against illegal drugs, Vice President Leni Robredo’s report showed.

The Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy (PADS) outlined a “comprehensive and balanced” approach to the drug problem, including rehabilitation.

But the national budgets since 2017 showed huge disparities between funds allotted for law enforcement and rehabilitation, according to Robredo’s report released early this week. The Vice President co-chaired an inter-agency government body against illegal drugs late last year.

In the last 3 years, allocations for drug rehabilitation went down to P1.24 billion last year from P970 million in 2018 and P3.65 billion in 2017.

Robredo’s computation was based on items in the budgets of the Department of Health and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Enforcement budget increased to P12.57 billion in 2018 from P8.54 billion in 2017. Last year, the amount went down to P11.4 billion.

MASSIVE FAILURE

The biggest disparity in the budgets for enforcement and rehabilitation was recorded in the 2018 General Appropriations Act at P11.6 billion.

The difference was P10.16 billion last year, and P4.89 billion in 2017.

“There is no stronger manifestation of the imbalance of strategy than the government’s budget,” according to Robredo’s report, which also described the drug war as a “massive failure.”

Robredo noted that authorities seized only less than 1 percent of the total crystal meth consumed in the country, a conclusion disputed by the Philippine National Police.

Her findings drew sharp criticism from President Rodrigo Duterte, who described her as a “colossal blunder.”

“It's a dud. Wala naman siyang sinabi doon na bago na hindi tinututukan ng mga ahensiya na involved sa laban sa droga. There's nothing new with what she said,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said Monday.

COMMUNITY REHAB

Robredo’s report also urged the government to focus more on community-based rehabilitation, which would require careful screening of drug users.

Between 90 and 95 percent of those who had gone through this process were considered “mild users” and could be accommodated in community rehabilitation instead of in-patient facilities, she said, citing information from the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, which she co-chaired for 18 days.

A number of local governments nationwide have put up their own anti-drug abuse councils, a program that should be institutionalized with “national funding… to ensure continuity,” according to Robredo.

These offices should be staffed by trained experts such as doctors, nurses, and psychometricians, said lawyer Sikina Labastilla, who runs Caloocan City’s Anti-Drug Abuse Council.

Until she was removed from ICAD, Robredo had sought to replicate Caloocan’s relative success with community-based rehabilitation nationwide.

Labastilla said the government could still reorient its anti-drug strategy in the remaining years of the Duterte administration, and focus more on rehabilitation.

“Sawang-sawa na yung mga pulis kakakatok… ibang approach naman,” he told ABS-CBN News, referring to the PNP’s “tokhang” program where officers knock on the doors of drug user and urge them to go into rehabilitation.

[Policemen are tired of knocking… time to use a different approach.]

Many of these know users, after their were included in the community’s drug list, were later killed either in police operations or by motorcycle-riding gunmen.