MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has started her duty as the newly appointed co-chairperson of the government’s anti-drug campaign.
First in her agenda was to convene all members of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Drugs (ICAD) together with her co-chair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino.
During the press briefing, Robredo called for a replacement of the Operation Tokhang or Oplan Tokhang as a method of apprehending drug personalities.
“Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, parang naka-reach siya ng certain level of notoriety na kapag sinabing ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor,” Robredo said.
(Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, it seems to have reached a certain level of notoriety that when you say ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor.)
“It is incumbent upon us na mabago iyong kaisipian na iyon. Baka panahon na para pag-isipan natin iyong pagpalit ng isang kampanya na mas epektibo pero walang namamatay senselessly,” she added.
(It is incumbent upon us to change that notion. Maybe it’s time to think about replacing this with a more effective campaign that is without the senseless killings.)
Robredo said she wants to believe that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to hand over the anti-drug campaign implies that the Chief Executive is “open to listening to a fresh perspective about the entire campaign.”
And although she said she wants a vigorous campaign against illegal drugs, it should be within the bounds of the rule of law.
Robredo also emphasized the need to consider the problem of illegal drugs as criminality but a medical and sociological problem.
The Vice President requested to be briefed on the current status of the government’s anti-drug campaign and be provided with access to all data and documents in relation to the program.
“Gusto ko pong malaman kung saan ako magsisimula (I want to know where to start),” she said.
Despite being a staunch critic of the campaign, Robredo commended the ‘successes’ of the administration’s drug war specifically the recent haul of illegal drugs from various operations.
But Robredo expressed concern over the increasing number of drug dependents despite the efforts and resources that have been exerted by all anti-drug agencies working on the campaign.
“Why don’t we re-assess? Ano ba iyong mabubuting ginagawa? Para iyong mga effective na ginagawa ay ipagpapatuloy natin. Pero ano ba yung mga ginagawa na hindi nagbibigay sa atin ng desired results?” she said.
(Why don’t we re-assess? What are the good things being done? So that the effective ones will be continued. But let us think also of the things that we were doing that didn’t bring us our desired results.)
“Iyon ang pag-isipan natin (We should think about those things),” she said further.
After Robredo addressed the media, Aquino requested them to leave to give the Committee time to discuss important matters in relation to their duty.
The PDEA chief promised to take questions from the press alongside Robredo after the meeting.