Poverty not an excuse to get into drugs – DDB chief Cuy

MANILA, Philippines – For Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Chairman Catalino Cuy, poverty is an invalid excuse for using or selling illegal drugs. 

"That's what they say, poverty, but that's not a good reason, hindi (it's not a) justification 'yun to be involved in drugs just because you say na poor ka o walang ibang income (that you're poor or you have no other income)," Cuy said in an interview with Rappler on Friday, January 26.

The former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Officer-in-charge was responding to the question of how the proliferation of the drug trade is related to poverty.

In the Philippines, almost 11 million families consider themselves to be impoverished.

Cuy reasoned that the government has many employment and rehabilitation opportunities to aid poorest drug abusers in recovering and raking in cash.

He said the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) could assist them in learning skills for employment, the Department of Agriculture (DA) can introduce them to farming, and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) can refer them to private companies.

He clarified, however, that those into drugs are not to blame entirely, as he said these national agencies also need to be "aggressive" in reaching out to drug suspects.

Sharp turn

Cuy's stand clashes with that of his predecessor, Dionisio Santiago, who was asked to resign to Duterte after critical pronouncements on the Nueva Ecija mega drug rehabilitation centers.

Over a decade ahead of Cuy in the Philippine Mlitary Academy, Santiago went as far as saying poor people have no choice but to get involved in drugs, especially those who couldn't find jobs. (READ: PH drug problem rooted in poverty – drugs board chief)

"If you do not get shot, you will die out of hunger or disease because you do not have money for medicine, because you cannot rise up [from poverty]," he once said in a press conference before he was sacked.

 Santiago was then alluding to the operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the war on drugs, where thousands of drug suspects have died for supposedly fighting back against cops.

Most of the dead belong to impoverished communities. (READ: This is where they do not die) – Rappler.com

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.