AFTER CLAIMING MEGA DRUG REHAB CENTER ‘A MISTAKE’

Drugs board chief quits

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DIONISIO SANTIAGO has resigned his position as chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
Santiago submitted his resignation letter to President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday.

Dionisio Santiago

Prior to stepping down, Santiago had called the Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Fort
Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija a “mistake” and an “impractical solution” to the drug menace.

“The [mega rehabilitation center]is impractical. It is a mistake. The budget should have been used for ‘community-based’ rehabilitation…Community-based is more effective,” Santiago said in an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on November 1.

ANC reported on Tuesday that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea called up Santiago on Monday to inform him of the President’s displeasure at his comments on the Nueva Ecija rehab center.

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The 75,000-hectare rehabilitation facility was constructed with materials donated by Chinese philanthropist Huang Rulun.

“My rule is the boss is always right,” ANC quoted Santiago as saying after his sudden resignation.
Santiago earlier told reporters that the DDB would focus on reducing the demand for drugs by taking a “softer approach.”

“There is preventive education that aims to prevent people from abusing drugs…Treatment and rehabilitation is also part of this strategy,” Santiago said on October 30.

Santiago said the DDB’s campaign was different from the Philippine National Police (PNP) war on drugs. He said the course of the board’s strategy was more “pro-people.”

“The campaign aims to change the narrative on the anti-drug campaign. The fight now against drugs is about protecting the people,” Santiago had said.

Santiago’s appointment in July came less than two months after President Duterte fired then DDB Chairman Benjamin Reyes for contradicting his claims that there were about four million drug users in the country.

Santiago served as director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) from 2006 to 2010 during the term of Presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—now a Pampanga representative and an ally of Duterte.

Petition vs drug war

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court set for November 21, 2 p.m., oral arguments on the petition to stop the war on drugs.

“The parties in these consolidated cases are directed to comment on the petitions and the prayers for interim reliefs, such as temporary restraining order and the writ of amparo within the non-extendible period of ten days from receipt of the order,” said high court spokesman Theodore Te in a news conference.

The respondents are Aileen Almora and Rowena Aparri of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and Sr. Ma. Juanita Daño et al., while the respondents are led by Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald de la Rosa.

Flag members and alleged victims of Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs went to the Supreme Court on October 11 to appeal for a stop to the bloody campaign.

The petitioners questioned Command Memorandum Circular No. 16 – 2016, the governing document of the anti-drug campaign issued by the PNP chief on July 1, 2016. They sought to declare unconstitutional Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular 2017-112 on the anonymous reporting of suspected criminals, for violating the right to due process of law and to be presumed innocent.

The SC en banc consolidated the FLAG-aided petition (G.R. 234359) with G.R. 234484 filed by Daño, one of the members of the Religious of the Good Shepherd and residents of San Andres Bukid district in Manila.
The petitioners want the PNP to stop Oplan Tokhang, which has claimed thousands of lives. On the same day FLAG filed the case before the high court, however, the Palace announced that the war on drugs would be transferred to the PDEA.

WITH JAIME R. PILAPIL

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