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VP’s drug report: Robredo shows her mettle

Vice President Leni Robredo’s comprehensive, incisive report as cochair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad), covering the period of Nov. 6-24, 2019, not only disproves any lingering notions that she is an empty-headed housewife who rode on her dead husband’s coattails to political victory (“a colossal blunder,” President Duterte calls her), but also proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that her deliberate, impartial, analytical, evidence-based approach to problems qualifies her as presidential material. No, Mr. President. Robredo is not a colossal blunder. It is you who made the colossal blunder of appointing her cochair of one of your most important projects, which you yourself had already admitted failing at.

Why your colossal blunder? Simply put, you gave her the opportunity to show her mettle to the Filipino people—her executive ability, her ability to break a complex problem into simple pieces and come up with bite-size solutions. You tried to stop it, but it was too late, even if it were only 18 days.

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What does she want done (her findings and recommendations)? 1) Strengthen the Icad, particularly by giving it strategic leadership (i.e., direct presidential attention) with the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) as chair (so enforcement is not overemphasized). 2) Create a common and reliable database on the number of drug dependents in the country, and a uniform process for tracking all subsequent actions and interventions regarding those who surrendered or were arrested. There is none at the moment. 3) There is a disproportionately large amount of resources placed on street-level enforcement, with very little attention to prevention, detentions, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration. 4) “Tokhang” should be abandoned. And 5) Supply constriction has been a massive failure.

What are the bases for these? For example, think of drug dependents. The numbers given range from 1.6 million (DDB nationwide survey in 2015) to 7-8 million (Mr. Duterte’s figures, no basis). In the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-22, the figure is 4 million (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency estimate). The PNP says that 1.5 million have been accounted for. So what happened to the other 2.5 million? Also, there has been no tracking of the over a million surrenderees. Are they in jail, are they being rehabilitated? What? No answers.

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What about her finding of the disproportionate use of resources for street-level enforcement vs. prevention, detention, rehabilitation, reintegration? She got that by looking at the government budget. In 2019, the budget for enforcement was P11.4 billion, or more than nine times the budget for rehab of P1.2 billion.

What about Tokhang? She finds that there are no guidelines and protocols on how to implement this, giving the police very wide discretion. No transparency, so the confidence in the police reached new lows. It seems the Double Barrel project was plucked out of thin air.

The “massive failure” of the supply constriction, which unfortunately was the term used by media to apply to the whole antidrug campaign, is based on the official numbers: the seizures of illegal drugs in the country amount to less than 1 percent of estimated total consumption.

Reader, it is a 40-page report, with 168 footnotes that essentially cite the data sources—all government—on which the findings and recommendations are based. It is very transparent. Read it for yourself, from the Rappler website or the Office of the Vice President, www.ovp.gov.ph.

If you read the relevant portions of Ch. 18 of the PDP 2017-2022, you will also find that the VP’s Report provides the holistic program to combat drugs, whose success can be measured. The PDP Results Matrices now do not include any targets or indicators to measure the success of the campaign, “due to the sensitivity of the information.” Another way of saying they didn’t know how to do it. The Vice President points the way.

Mr. President, as the Vice President says, the common enemy is the continued proliferation of illegal drugs. You have also said this. So if you are thinking of the country, think of what an asset she would be for the next two and a half years. Her abilities would more than make up for a lot of the ineptitudes of some of your appointed officials.

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TAGS: drug war, Vice President Leni Robredo
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