Drugs board chief quits
Reports say ‘on President’s order, ‘ but Palace mum on issue
THE chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board has resigned days after saying that President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to set up a large-scale drug rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija was a mistake, sources said Tuesday.
They said board chairman Dionisio Santiago submitted his resignation to the Office of the President, after he talked with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Monday.
But Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque could not confirm the report, saying that Medialdea had told him that he had received no letter from Santiago.
Sources said Duterte was displeased by Santiago’s statements made during an Oct. 30 press conference, in which he said the rehabilitation center, designed to house 10,000 patients, would be “ineffective” since it crowds suspects together while cutting their ties from support systems like their families.
In a television interview on Nov. 1, Santiago called the rehabilitation center “impractical.”
“That was a mistake,” he said.
“The problem is, the President got excited, but the money could have been spent on small community-based rehabilitation programs that can accommodate only between 150 to 200 people,” he had said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Santiago is the second drugs board official to be fired for remarks that contradicted Duterte.
His predecessor, Benjamin Reyes, was also sacked for giving the “wrong” number of drug users in the country.
A DDB survey, conducted from Jan. 1, 2015 to Feb. 5, 2016, said there are 1.8 million drug users in the country, much lower than Duterte’s estimate of 4 million.
“You do not contradict your own government,” Duterte told Reyes at the time.