Gov’t anti-drug campaign ‘balanced, well-coordinated,’ says Duque

Sofia Tomacruz
Gov’t anti-drug campaign ‘balanced, well-coordinated,’ says Duque
Health chief Francisco Duque III bases his assessment on the increased number of rehabilitation centers and drug users treated under the Duterte administration

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III believes the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, which has claimed the lives of at least 4,500 people, has been “very balanced” and “well coordinated.”

Duque gave the assessment in a news briefing on Wednesday, August 15, when asked about government efforts to rehabilitate arrested and surrendered drug users.

The health chief said he based his assessment on the increase in the number of rehabilitation centers and drug users treated under the Duterte administration.

“There’s never been something like this ever before. So I think it’s to the credit of the President that his approach has been very balanced and well-coordinated in terms of the execution of his anti-drug abuse program,” Duque said in a briefing in Malacañang. (READ: Drug addiction is a health problem. Somebody please tell the President.)

Metrics for success: Duque said the DOH bases the success of the campaign on the number of facilities and patients treated.

“I think there are many metrics that we can use as a reflection of the success of the government’s broad front approach to addressing the scourge of illegal drugs. But I’ll tell you this, if you are going to look at DOH what it has done, many more TRCs, many more bed capacities. Is this good? Of course, it’s good,” Duque said.

The DOH recorded a total of 8,461 admissions into drug rehabilitation programs from 2016 to 2018. Of the number, Duque said 8,412 patients have graduated so far.

He also highlighted the ongoing construction of 11 drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers (TRCs) in the Philippines. This will add to the total of 53 licensed TRCs.

The bed capacity of the treatment centers, however, are nowhere near the 1,423,413 drug users in government custody eligible for treatment. (No ‘real number’ on drug rehab: Here’s why)

Intertwined efforts: Duque also said efforts from other agencies “must be intertwined” to achieve a drug-free Philippines.

“While we are improving and enhancing our capacities, remember the other pillars are also at play – and so the prosecution, the advocacies. And so all these efforts must be intertwined and hopefully achieve the outcome that is a drug-free Philippines by 2022,” Duque said.

Critics and human rights advocates have repeatedly slammed the government’s so-called war against illegal drugs, which has targeted mostly poor Filipinos and has failed to catch big-time drug smugglers so far. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.