DDB chief Dionisio Santiago asked to resign

Pia Ranada
DDB chief Dionisio Santiago asked to resign
The DDB chairman is asked to resign after his remarks criticizing the mega drug rehabilitation center funded by a Chinese tycoon

MANILA, Philippines – Another government official has been sacked for expressing a view contrary to that of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chief Dionisio Santiago submitted a very brief resignation letter to the Office of the President after having a talk with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Monday, November 6.

According to sources, Duterte was displeased by Santiago’s statements about how the administration is handling the illegal drug problem.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque could not confirm it during his regular press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, November 7.

In particular, Santiago has been quoted by media as saying the Nueva Ecija mega drug rehabilitation center funded by Chinese tycoon Huang Rulun was a “mistake.”

On October 30, in a press conference, he said the rehabilitation center, expected to house 10,000 patients, is “ineffective” since it crowds suspects together while cutting their ties from support systems like their families.

In an interview with ANC on November 1, Santiago described the rehabilitation center as “impractical.”

“That was a mistake. The problem is, the President got excited, but the money could have been spent on small community-based rehabilitation programs that can accommodate only between 150 to 200 people,” he had said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Santiago, a former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief, is the official often quoted by Duterte as one of his sources for his claim that there are 4 million drug addicts in the country.

This figure has been critical in bolstering Duterte’s narrative that his bloody drug war is necessary.

Duterte supported the senatorial bid of Santiago in 2016, a bid which Santiago lost.

Santiago is the second DDB official to be fired for remarks about the administration’s anti-drugs policy.

The person Santiago replaced, former DDB chief Benjamin Reyes, was also sacked by Duterte for giving the “wrong” number of drug users in the country.

A DDB survey, conducted from January 1, 2015, to February 5, 2016, said there are 1.8 million drug users in the country.

For this figure, Duterte told Reyes: “You do not contradict your own government.” – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.