Robredo denies calling for an end to drug war

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Vice President Leni Robredo sits next to President Rodrigo Duterte during the commencement exercises of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City on May 26, 2019.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — Vice President Leni Robredo denied that she called for an end to the Duterte administration’s drug war, saying that headlines which suggested that she wanted the anti-drug campaign to be halted were “wrong.”

On her radio program on Sunday, Robredo said she only suggested for tweaks to the drug war and called for a stop to “wrong” methods that did not bring down the number of drug addicts in the country.

Nabasa ko ‘yung headline, mali ‘yun. ‘Yung headline mali, kasi binalikan ko ‘yung video, binalikan ko ‘yung transcript, wala akong sinabing ihinto ‘yung kampanya, at kapag i-tweak, i-assess lang kung ano ‘yung mali. Rebyuhin at ‘yung mga maling ginagawa, hindi na ituloy,” Robredo said on Biserbisyong Leni over radio RMN-DZXL.

[Translation: I read the headline, it’s wrong. The headline is wrong, because when I looked back at the video, when I re-read the transcript, I never said the campaign should be stopped, I said we should tweak it, which means that we should assess what is wrong. We should review what is wrong and stop it.]

Robredo was interviewed last week by foreign news service Reuters, which ran a story based on it with the headline “Philippine vice president says time for Duterte to halt failed drug war.”

Reuters quoted Robredo suggesting that President Rodrigo Duterte “should allow the United Nations to investigate his war on drugs, and abandon a deadly campaign that has been failure and a dent on the country’s international image.”

As usual, her comments against the drug war earned criticism from Malacañang, with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo claiming that she has been brainwashed by her colleagues in the opposition.

Iba ‘yung sinabi ko. ‘Pag tiningnan mo ‘yung interview ko, ang sinabi ko, dapat i-assess ng pamahalaan kung tama pa ba ‘yung strateging ginagamit. Kasi kung mali na, kailangan i-tweak,” Robredo said on her radio program. “Ang ibig sabihin ng tweak, kailangan himasin o baguhin kasi parang may mga ginagawa silang hindi nagwo-work.”

[Translation: I said something else. If you review my interview, I said that the government should assess if they are still using correct strategies. Because if not, then we need to tweak it … Tweaking means we need to reform or change because it seems like they are doing things which are not working.]

Citing figures from the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and Duterte himself, Robredo said the number of drug addicts and users ballooned from 1.8 million in 2016 to around seven to eight million in February 2019 despite the government’s brutal campaign against drugs which has left more than 5,000 dead, according to government data.

Hindi ba tama lang, ano bang mali ang sinabi ko? ‘Di ba tama lang na i-assess mo kung ano ‘yung hindi nagwo-work sa kampanya kasi kung nagsimula kang 1.4 million [drug addicts,] despite the campaign naging seven to eight million na siya, mayroong hindi nagwo-work,” Robredo said.

[Translation: Isn’t it only correct, what’s wrong with what I said? Isn’t it right for us to assess what’s not working in the campaign against drugs because if you started with 1.4 million drug addicts, despite the campaign it blew up to seven to eight million drug addicts, then something’s not working.]

Different government officials have given varying answers as to how many drug users are there in the country.

Latest government research dates back to 2015, when the DDB said the country has 1.8 million “current” drug users — or those who have used addictive drugs from January 1, 2015 to February 5, 2016.

Then DDB chief Dionisio Santiago told CNN Philippines in a 2017 interview that he would add two million more drug users who did not turn themselves in for rehabilitation, bloating the count to “guesstimate” of three million.

Former national police chief and now Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa has said 1.6 million drug addicts have surrendered to the government since the start of its anti-drug campaign, but Duterte said these numbers only refer to those from Metro Manila who surrendered.

From 2016, Duterte has also given varying estimates — ranging from just 1.5 million to eight million.

The International Criminal Court prosecutor is conducting a preliminary examination into the alleged crimes against humanity committed by Duterte and other government officials during the course of the drug war.