MANILA - Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Sunday dubbed drug dependents as "potential criminals," as he stressed the need to sustain the administration's anti-narcotics drive.
"Kung gaano karami ang addicted, halimbawa mayroon kang 3 million na addicted, you have 3 million potential criminals. Marami ang drug-related crimes na nanggagaling d'yan," Panelo told DZMM.
(For instance, if you have 3 million drug addicts, you have 3 million potential criminals. Many drug-related crimes come from there.)
"That is why the President said I will not allow this generation to be affected by that."
President Rodrigo Duterte has claimed that there are some 3 million drug users in the country, adding that methamphetamine use for a year or more would shrink the brain of a person, thus making rehabilitation "useless."
The government however has rejected criticism that it lacked the commitment to rehabilitate drug users.
In August, then Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said 8 drug rehabilitation centers would be built across the Philippines, funded by private firms, including conglomerate San Miguel Corp and property firm Megaworld.
Last year, the government opened what it called a "mega" drug rehabilitation facility to treat up to 10,000 patients and funded by a Chinese tycoon.
The government's 13 drug abuse treatment and rehab facilities treated 14,733 out-patients in 2016, up more than 3 times from the previous year, and close to 30,000 in- patients, up 4 percent over 2015, the Department of Health said.
However, the DOH submitted a budget of P759.6 million for state-managed rehabilitation facilities under the government's proposed 2018 spending plan, 75 percent less than this year's budget of P3.08 billion.
The Department of Interior and Local Government meanwhile proposed to raise the budget for police anti-drug operations to P900 million from P20 million this year, according to several lawmakers.
PNP data shows 3,800 people have been killed in operations in which police say armed suspects violently resisted arrest. Duterte's opponents and activists dispute that, saying executions and cover-ups are commonplace, which police deny.
Panelo said the drug war has been "successful" so far despite the presence of some scalawag policemen. He noted that thousands of drug suspects have surrendered to the government while several top policemen with alleged drug links were removed from service.
Earlier this month, Duterte ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to lead the narcotics war, putting police in the backseat as it faced allegations of abuse.
PDEA has said it was short in manpower and would still need to tap police reinforcements in their operations.