NEWLY-appointed Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Chairman Dionisio Santiago said that among the things he hoped to accomplish would be to assess the capacity of rehabilitation facilities nationwide to serve the needs of drug dependents.
“Ibe-benchmark namin sila. Kapag hindi ako satisfied sa sagot mo, I’m empowered as declared ng aming board na ipasara iyong mga rehab facilities na iyon,” Santiago told The Manila Times at a forum in Quezon City on Saturday.
(We will benchmark the performance of these rehabilitation facilities. If I am not satisfied with the assessment, we can close them down.)
He said benchmarking these facilities was part of his plan to enhance the government’s drug rehabilitation program, which would also involve more stringent law enforcement and the monitoring of “relapse rates” or reformed users who would fall back into the drug habit.
Santiago also said that he would ask other drug-related agencies to join the DDB in discussions on improving policies and other agreements.
He said his 44 years in government service, including as head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), have not only familiarized him with the position but also gave him an advantage.
When asked about the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, Santiago said other programs should support “Oplan Tokhang”.
He said that although the campaign was effective in terms of persuading drug dependents to reform, the government must also provide health options, along with other interventions.
Santiago, whom Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd recommended to the post, was also the source of the “four million addicts” which President Rodrigo Duterte always referred to in his speech on illegal drugs.
Duterte sacked Santiago’s predecessor, Benjamin Reyes, for announcing in a forum attended by United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard in May that there were only 1.8 million drug users in the Philippines, citing the 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines.
Santiago had said in a recent television interview that it was safe to say that there were three million drug users in the country.
The new DDB chairman released the same figure five years ago. ELSHAMAE ROBLES