President Rodrigo Duterte should be given six years to stamp out illegal drugs instead of half a year, his allies at the House of Representatives said on Monday.
Rep. Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte and Rep. Frederick Abueg of Palawan were reacting to President Duterte’s appeal that he be given another six months to eradicate the widespread drug menace in the country, contrary to his campaign promise that he can easily pull the task off in three to six months from June 30 when he was sworn in as the country’s new leader.
The President was quoted as saying, “I can say we would need time to put everything in order. That self-imposed time of three to six months, I did not realize how severe, serious, the drug menace [is]in this Republic until I became President.”
The ‘[d]rug war should not be time-bound. In fact, our national policy against drugs should be perpetual. The campaign against drugs should be given six years, even, because this fight is tough,” Barbers told reporters.
At least 3,000 suspected drug peddlers and drug users have been shot dead by the police and unidentified assailants since Duterte came to power, on top of the 700,000 drug dependents who have surrendered to authorities.
Director Ronald de la Rosa, Philippine National Police chief, on Sunday night said the PNP wants the number of surrendered drug dependents to reach 1.2 to 1.3 million by December this year.
The President’s “mandate does not end in six months. He made a promise during the campaign, but when you are in the frontline, you will see the magnitude of the problem. So we have to give it [more time]to the President for his relentless anti-drug drive,” Barbers said.
Abueg said Duterte needs all the time in the world to finish the job.
“The campaign has also resulted in a psychological warfare success. People would not do drugs nowadays because they know the police will catch them anytime. There is success in this campaign, and we should support the President if he wants six more months,” Abueg added.
But for opposition lawmaker Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list group, breaking a campaign promise only proves that Duterte cannot be trusted with his words, among other things.
“He said he would even leave his post even if fails to do it within three to six months. This just shows, on top of his other conflicting statements, that we can’t trust his words. He easily takes back everything that he says.
People voted for him because of this promise, and he just deceived them,” Alejano, a former Marine captain, said.
Another Duterte promise that is doomed to fail, according to the Magdalo lawmaker, is the planned doubling of the salaries of the soldiers that the administration is yet to earmark funding for.
“He easily goes for big words and promises which he cannot fulfill,” Alejano said.
His fellow opposition lawmaker Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao agreed, noting that it is becoming clear that the anti-drug war has no goal to begin with.
“Maybe the body count is not high enough to pronounce success. How do we measure success? Now since the six-month pledge was a campaign promise, then let’s already prepare a new promise to solve traffic in six months,” Baguilat said in a text message.
The government should stop making promises that it could eliminate illegal drugs, crime and corruption because it is simply not possible, Sen Panfilo Lacson also said on Monday.
“Having come from law enforcement particularly the PNP, I knew then as I know now that it is impossible to eliminate drugs, crime and corruption in three months, six months and even in our lifetime,” Lacson, a former PNP chief, added.
The senator was also reacting to the President saying that that he cannot stop crime and illegal drugs in six months.
“Minimize [illegal drugs and criminality]to a great degree, yes. But to say they can be eliminated will always remain as wishful thinking,” Lacson said.
The senator noted that what is important is that people could see that the administration is addressing the problem.
Lacson said the PNP, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the other law enforcement agencies have been doing their duties and are producing results, which are more important than imposing a timetable.
“So it would be better if they will refrain from making promises because crime, drugs and corruption will outlive all of us,” the senator added.
Lacson was among those who expressed doubts on Duterte’s campaign promise to make the country crime- and drug-free in six months, Duterte even dared the people to shoot him if he fails to deliver.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said he sees nothing wrong with the President’s request for extension, adding that the President can even have one full year as long as he continues his fight against drugs and criminality.
Sotto added that he believes that Duterte is not targeting to have a drug-free Philippines because that will not happen in this lifetime.
“We are looking at a drug-resistant Philippines and that’s what he [the President]is aiming for, I think,” he said.