MANILA - To pursue an “evidence-based” anti-illegal drugs campaign, Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday said the members of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), which she co-chairs, will have until December to consolidate information.
“Iyong aming target until the end of the year, mayroon nang linaw,” she told journalists after a meeting with the enforcement cluster of the ICAD, which she co-chairs.
(Our target is until the end of the year, there should already be some clarity.)
“So, iyon iyong unang agreement: na tapusin na iyong baselines kasi iyon nga, after a while, wala pa rin, hindi pa rin available,” she said, adding that it will include the number of people arrested, those surrendered, and those who are facing cases.
(So, that was the agreement--to finish the baselines because after a while, it has still not been made available.)
She said it’s also important to know the status of the cases, and how many are now in rehabilitation.
Robredo also raised the problem of not having consolidated data on the capabilities or equipment (such as x-ray machines) that each agency has.
Robredo said one problem they face is that each agency has its own set of lists.
“So, iyong pagkalap, pag-harmonize, pag-vet, takes a lot of time already. Pero tingin ko, it is really about time na magkaroon na talaga ng common baselines,” she said.
(So, the gathering, the harmonizing, and the vetting takes a lot of time already. But I think, it’s really about time to have common baselines.)
Robredo said the baseline data are important so they can assess the drug campaign, which has been operating for three years now.
“Nasaan na tayo, ano iyong mga nag-work, alin iyong mga hindi nag-work?” she said.
(What have we achieved, what worked and what didn’t work?)
In addition to these data, there are still debates on how many have been killed in the controversial drug war. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said more than 5,000 have been killed during anti-drug operations but rights groups claim it is much higher.
Robredo said she had actually sent a letter to the ICAD asking for that information.
“I assure them na iyong paghingi ko ng information is not to ghost-hunt, pero just so alam ko kung saan ako nagsisimula, alam ko kung ano iyong baseline, at para hindi na natin maulit iyong mga pagkukulang noong nakaraang kampanya,” she said.
(I assure them that my request for such information is not to ghost hunt but so I know where to start, I know the baseline and so we don’t repeat the lapses of the previous campaign.)
However, she has yet to receive a response to her query.
Robredo said ICAD's leadership has been supportive so far, even though she has been one of the critics of the drug war, a reason why President Rodrigo Duterte recently appointed her co-chair of the ICAD.
While other opposition personalities warned Robredo that Duterte’s offer was a trap, the Vice President accepted the appointment, saying it is an opportunity to pursue a humane campaign against illegal drugs.
After gathering and assessing data, Robredo said she would seek “common metrics” for all agencies under ICAD.
She criticized the current Philippine Anti-Drug Strategy, which she said had 81 indicators that were “activity-centered” instead of being “outcomes-oriented.”
“Ang suggestion ko rin na isa, na instead na magsabi tayo na drug-free Philippines in 2022, magkaroon ng short-term at saka medium-term na goals para… para achievable. Ang suggestion ko nga, on a quarterly basis mayroong… mayroong mga goals na nire-reach ng organizations and agencies under ICAD.,” she said.
(My suggestion is that instead of declaring the Philippines drug-free by 2022, there should be short-term and medium-term goals to make it more achievable. My suggestion is to have quarterly goals for the organizations and agencies under ICAD.)
Robredo said she will recommend the creation of a technical working group by next week to discuss proposed legislation based on the feedback of some agencies that some “current legislations prevent them from fully exercising their mandate.”
She said her target is to be able to present their concerns when the House of Representatives Committee on Dangerous Drugs invites her to a hearing.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri, who was among those who attended the ICAD meeting, said the whole morning was spent updating the Vice President on what kind of data the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has.
Echiverri admitted that there can be inaccuracies, such as barangay officials listing down their opponents on the drug watchlist. However, he said the list still undergoes vetting by the Philippine National Police.
“We’ve identified and told her (about) the gaps, which we’ve discovered along the way,” he said.
Echiverri said they also proposed to Robredo the creation of an anti-drug abuse council to make local governments accountable, and to create an anti-drug abuse office “to make all things permanent and institutionalized.”
Robredo will be meeting with the DILG separately on Tuesday to discuss the anti-drug abuse council and the agency’s information system.