By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III believes that the government’s success in fighting the illegal drug trade cannot be measured merely by numbers, but also by the public’s assessment of the campaign.
The Senate chief issued a statement Wednesday, in apparent reaction to Vice President Leni Robredo’s observations and recommendations about the Duterte administration’s war on drugs after her short stint as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) in November.
Sotto, who has been supportive of the President Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign, invoked the high public approval rating of the current administration against Robredo’s “one over 100” score for the drug war on Monday.
“The President’s high approval ratings after three years, is incompatible with a grand failure accusation,” Sotto told reporters in a text message.
“People deterred from illegal drugs do not raise their arms to be surveyed. The truth is found in the stories of families at home and the changes in their neighborhood. Dati takot ang mga tao sa adik; ngayon ang adik ang takot (Before, people fear drug addicts, but now, it’s addicts who are now afraid),” he added.
He further said: “The drug problem is not explained by numbers alone. It is deeper than mere arithmetic.”
Sotto had earlier noted that Robredo raised “some very valid points” in reporting her findings of the drug war based on her 18-day ICAD stint last year, but found her assessment of it as a failure “very different and misplaced.”
Robredo flunked the administration in its anti-drug campaign for supposedly seizing only one percent of the total drug supply and drug money circulating in the country, citing the data given to her by law enforcement agencies in the ICAD.
She urged the administration to change its strategy in addressing the drug problem and chase big-time drug suppliers, instead of street-level pusher and users.
She also proposed to let the Dangerous Drug Board (DDB) lead the ICAD, instead of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), so that the drug campaign will not be focused solely on law enforcement, but also on drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation programs, and the successful prosecution of drug offenses.