Go’s statements betray reservations about Robredo’s anti-drug czar role

If Vice President Leni Robredo succeeds in dismantling the illegal drugs network and reducing the menace without the killings that have characterized President Duterte’s failed drug war, it would be a slap on Duterte’s much vaunted iron hand strategy.

Vice President Leni Robredo in her first press conference with PDEA's Aaron Aquino, her co-chair in the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs.

Sen. Bong Go’s statements betray this concern even as he expressed “full support”for her as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) together with the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

In his press release after his visit to Leyte to witness the groundbreaking ceremony of housing projects for typhoon Yolanda victims in Tanauan and to give aid to fire victims in Tacloban Nov. 8, Go took exception to Robredo’s statement about no killing of innocent lives in the drug war.

He insisted that an iron hand is needed in the fight against illegal drugs. “Hindi natin pwedeng i-baby ang mga drug lords na ito. Itong mga drug lords na ito, halang ang kaluluwa (We cannot treat them like a baby. These drug lords, they have deviant souls),” he said.

Go also said Duterte’s drug war was succeeding citing the 82 percent approval rating of the public according to a September 2019 survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Go should be reminded that despite popular support of the anti-drug war, because who in his right mind is not against illegal drugs, a December 2018 SWS survey also showed that 95 percent of the respondents believed that it was "important" for drug suspects to be captured alive.

This public sentiment could be a reaction to the thousands of killings that marked Duterte’s drug war. The government admits to only about 6,000 killed during police operations but a 2017 official accomplishment report listed more than 20,000. The Commission on Human Rights said some 26,000 have been killed in Duterte’s drug war.

Many of those killed were from depressed areas where police conduct the operations.

Go also credited Duterte for reducing the number of drug lords. He said: “Ilang Presidente na ba ang dumaan? Nabawasan ba ang drug lord? Nabawasan ba ang droga? Lalong dumami. Ngayon lang po ito nabawasan nang panahon ni Pangulong Duterte (How many presidents have passed. Was the number of drug lords reduced? Was the amount of drugs reduced? It even increased. It’s only now that it had been reduced during the time of President Duterte).”

He said Duterte’s tough stance reduced the number of drug lords: “I’m sure kung hindi mo i-daan sa takot itong mga drug lord na ito, dadami ang drug lord, dadami ang droga, dadami ang magiging biktimang Pilipino (I’m sure if he did not use the element of fear, the number of drug lords would have increased, the volume of drugs would have also increased and they would victimize more Filipinos).”

What is Go’s basis in saying the number of drug lords have been reduced? Does he have a database of drug lords in the country? If he has, he should release that to the public. Sure, two or three alleged drug lords have been killed. But how sure is he they were not replaced?

Go uttered an offensive aside, which revealed his arrogance and hostility towards Robredo and her team: “Yung nagsasabi na isa sa mga assistant mo na trap ito (Whoever among your assistant said this [the offer to be drug czar] was a trap), it’s not a trap. Kapain mo muna ang sarili mo. Kung walang bayag ang mga assistant mo, ibulong mo na lang sa amin. Kami ang papatay sa drug lord (Examine yourself first. If your assistant has no balls, whisper it to us, we will be the one to kill the drug lord).”

Spoken like his boss.

Sen. Bong Go in Leyte.

As to his claim that the volume of illegal drugs in the country has been reduced under the Duterte administration, that does not present the whole picture because early this year, the President and the Philippine National Police (PNP) said even as the number of drug users has decreased, the drug situation has worsened because international drug syndicates continue to smuggle a "large volume of illegal drugs" into the country.

That’s where Robredo said she will focus: reducing the supply of narcotics in the country.

She bared this strategy after meeting with Sen. Panfilo Lacson, former PNP chief, in her new role as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs.

That was also what was strange about Duterte’s war on drugs. He went on a killing spree of drug users and runners in poor communities, and yes, killing two or three drug lords, but he was soft on those involved in allowing the smuggling of drugs into the country. There was the much publicized P6.4 billion worth of drugs passing under the nose of then Customs Chief Nicanor Faeldon in August 2017 and the estimated P11 billion worth of shabu found in magnetic filters in a warehouse in Cavite. Yet no one was punished. Some officials involved were even promoted.

Lacson was reported to have warned Robredo to “watch her back all the time” as there are "a lot of characters in this world she entered."

True, even those who profess “full support” for her.


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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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