MANILA—"Your war on drugs has failed."
These were the words of Florin Hilbay to fellow senatorial candidate Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, the former police chief who first helmed the government's sweeping anti illegal-narcotics campaign.
Candidates were asked about the Duterte administration's drug war, with Hilbay saying the President himself had acknowledged that the country's drug problem is worsening.
"Walang problema ang Pilipino sa war on drugs. Ang problema ng Pilipino ang walang saysay na patayan," Hilbay, a former solicitor general, said in CNN Philippines' senatorial forum.
"Pagkatapos ng maraming patayan, ang problema ng droga mas malaki pa ngayon. Your war on drugs has failed."
Dela Rosa earlier said the country still has a long way to go in solving the drug menace, but that the administration's drug war has helped a lot.
"Ikompara mo sa previous na administrasyon, malaki na po ang deperensiya. Nitong panahon ni Duterte ang droga imported galing sa China. Pero nung panahon ng ibang presidente, ang droga hindi iniimport, dito mismo ginagawa sa Pilipinas," he said.
Otso Diretso bet Chel Diokno said authorities should focus on drug lords instead of small-time drug pushers.
"We have to be certain those who are doing this are punished. Ba't di nila binubuksan ang mga bank account ng mga drug lord na 'yan. Alam ng pamahalaan kung sino 'yang mga 'yan, ang problema takot," he said.
Maranao civic leader Samira Gutoc, meanwhile, told Dela Rosa that government should instead fund its drug-prevention programs.
"Ang problema ang drug prevention program nabigyan ba natin ng budget? Nauna tayo sa killing before ng prevention. Bago ka sumawsaw sa war on drugs, sawsawan mo muna yung strengthening the pillars of justice system," she said.
Former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong came to Dela Rosa's side and recalled how a Cebu taxi driver said the streets were safer following the launch of the drug war.