President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday admitted firing Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Chairman Dionisio Santiago for “blabbering” to the media.
The President was irked by Santiago’s statement that the Mega Drug Rehabilitation facility built in Nueva Ecija was a mistake.
“He could have asked me for an audience, tell me all about it. I did not put him in his position to issue statements to the press. I assigned him there so he can talk to me when there is a problem; to tell me if what I am doing is not enough and if so, what should I do,” Duterte said in a news conference before leaving the country to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Vietnam.
“Instead, he went to the press, went on to blabber. You do not echo what is popular. I will rely on my judgment. If my talent is not enough, then sorry,” he added.
The President did not say if he has somebody in mind to replace Santiago.
Santiago had said that the money used to build the huge drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija that can house 10,000 patients should have been used to fund smaller rehabilitation centers in villages where family support will also be available for the drug dependents wishing to change their ways.
Senators Ralph Recto and Cynthia Villar backed Santiago’s stand that drug rehabilitation centers should be “community-based.”
“Kasi ang hirap naman talaga nung 10,000. Kasi ang ating rehab center, hindi naman dapat malayo. Sobrang laki talaga (It is really difficult to fill up the 10,000-bed capacity drug center. Our rehab center must not be quite far from the relatives of the patients. It is really huge),’ Villar said.
Senators Franklin Drilon and Gregorio Honasan 2nd, as well Recto and Villar, admitted tat it is the “prerogative” of the President to remove any of his Cabinet members or agency officials if they no longer enjoy his trust and confidence.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd on the other hand said the Ecija facility built with the help of Chinese philanthropist Huang Rulun “can be put to optimum use.”
“Aside from being just a drug rehab facility, it can also be utilized as the country’s mega drug enforcement academy,” he said. The senator said the facility can be used as an extension of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Academy.
“With that size, we could produce a thousand agents per batch. Alongside PDEA, other agencies such as BoC (Bureau of Customs), (Bureau of) Immigration, PNP (Phil. National Police), and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) can avail of the drug interdiction training program,” Sotto said.