PDEA chief: Robredo’s drug war report ‘a mere political attack’

Rambo Talabong
PDEA chief: Robredo’s drug war report ‘a mere political attack’
'She has dismissed and ignored all of our government's accomplishments and efforts for the past 3 years,' says Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – “Saddened” by Vice President Leni Robredo’s scalding report on the anti-drug campaign, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino accused her of politicizing her brief stint as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

“Eighteen days as ICAD co-chairman yet she has dismissed and ignored all of our government’s accomplishments and efforts for the past 3 years. I see her recommendations as a mere political attack against President Rodrigo Duterte,” Aquino said in a statement sent to reporters on Monday, January 6.

Why the condemnation? Aquino was reacting to Robredo’s exit report as ICAD co-chair, which she presented earlier on Monday.

The Vice President called Duterte’s landmark program a “failure.”

Robredo also recommended that Aquino be stripped of his leadership of the ICAD, and have the Dangerous Drugs Board chairman, who is currently retired police general Catalino Cuy, as the replacement. The ICAD was created through a Duterte executive order and the President would have the final say.

What the PDEA highlighted: While Robredo called for a holistic approach to ending the country’s drug problem, the PDEA insisted on looking at the following “metrics for success”:

  • Drug clearing percentage – around 40% of barangays cleared of drugs
  • Crime drop – nationwide crime incidents declined from 11,860 in July 2016 to 5,000 in July 2019
  • Trust rating – 82% of Filipinos are satisfied with the campaign as of September 2019, according to the Social Weather Stations
  • Operational accomplishments – P45 billion worth of illegal drugs seized from 2016 to 2019, from 162,987 operations with 225,284 arrests

What the PDEA did not mention: It did not include the over 5,500 drug suspects killed in anti-drug operations since Duterte assumed office. This figure is according to police.

Human rights groups, however, estimate the killings to reach up to 30,000, including those allegedly spurred by Duterte’s threats against drug users and dealers.

Robredo camp strikes back: The Vice President’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez fired back at Aquino, urging him to read the entire 41-page report before commenting.

“The report is clearly based on empirical evidence. If they disagree with it, they should prove their point through evidence as well. Otherwise, it is obvious who is really politicizing the issue,” said Gutierrez. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.