Duterte 'offended' by Santiago's criticism of drug rehab approach

MANILA, Philippines – It was indeed former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chief Dionisio Santiago's words that got him sacked, according to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The President, on Wednesday, November 8, said he was "offended" by Santiago's criticism of the Nueva Ecija mega drug rehabilitation center and the government's general approach to rehabilitating drug addicts.

"He came up with a very incongruous statement that I was offended. He could have asked me for an audience and then tell me all about it," Duterte said in a news briefing, before departing for Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

The President, who supported Santiago's senatorial bid in 2016, said he was dismayed that the former DDB chief went to the media first.

"I put you there so you can tell me the problem of our country and teach me if I have any shortcomings. But you do not go to the press and start to blabber," said Duterte, responding to questions about Santiago.

He claimed Santiago's criticism were prompted by the latter's desire to ride the bandwagon of "popular" sentiment about his drug war. This, he said, is contradictory to Santiago's acts when he was Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief.

"When he was there, it was caught on TV, he was kicking people. Then you come up with this deal if you would like to echo what is popular….Kung sasakay ka lang diyan, nge (If you are just riding the bandwagon, well)!" said Duterte.

The President, through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, asked Santiago to resign early this week. Santiago submitted a brief resignation letter to the Office of the President soon after. 

Santiago is the second DDB chief to be axed because of his remarks. His predecessor, Benjamin Reyes, was fired for sticking to the DDB survey figure of 1.8 million drug addicts in the Philippines. Duterte said this contradicted his administration's figure of 4 million drug addicts. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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