Sotto: Nueva Ecija facility can be used as mega drug enforcement academy

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday, November 8, said that the 10,000-bed mega treatment and rehabilitation center (TRC) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija can also be used as a "mega drug enforcement academy."

"PDEA can oversee it, as it can be made as an extension of the present PDEA academy,
Sotto said in a statement, referring to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

The mega TRC is in the headlines once again after Dangerous Drugs Board chief Dionisio Santiago was recently quoted as saying the facility "was a mistake" and that President Rodrigo Duterte got excited about it.

According to sources, the President was displeased by Santiago's statements. He was eventually asked to resign from his post.

Before Santiago, other officials from the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Health had already said government will not be continuing with the concept of a "mega rehab." (READ: No more 'mega' drug rehab centers after Nueva Ecija facility?)

The P1.5-billion facility in Nueva Ecija was donated by Chinese tycoon Huang Rulun, and no less than the President himself attended its inauguration in November 2016

On Wednesday, Sotto said the mega facility can be like the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok.

"With that size, we could produce a thousand agents per batch. Alongside PDEA, other agencies such as [the Bureau of Customs], Immigration, [the Philippine National Police], and [the National Bureau of Investigation] can avail of the drug interdiction training program," he said.

He also suggested for the President to seek the assistance of guest instructors from the police academies of China, United States, and Australia to make the Nueva Ecija facility a "world class training facility."

Other Senators also weighed in on the mega TRC issue.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said "parang may mali nga (something must be wrong)" if the facility has a 10,000-bed capacity and only 400 are occupying it.

Recto said he doesn't know the basis of Santiago's comment but "sa tingin ko kung 400 lang, hindi nagagamit ng tama (in my opinion, if only 400 patients are there, it's not being used properly)."

Like Sotto, Senator Cynthia Villar believes it's also better for the facility to be used for other purposes too, because "our drug rehab center should not be too big."

"Hindi naman nila dine-deny na sobrang laki nun, and yet it was donated so they did not have any choice. Sinasabi rin nila na gagamitin na for some other purposes, kasi ang hirap talaga nung 10,000 magsa-sama-sama dun,” she said during a press conference on Wednesday.

(They're not denying that it's too big, and yet it was donated so they did not have any choice. They also said that it will be used for some other purposes, because it's really difficult for 10,000 patients to stay there.)

In October 2016, then health secretary Paulyn Ubial said the vision behind building the facility inside a military camp is for the health department to turn them over to the military once government has reduced the number of admitted drug dependents in the country. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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