Dionisio’s ‘miscalculation’ yarn cost his job—Du30
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday admitted getting offended when former Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Dionisio Santiago described his administration’s plan to set up a large-scale rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija as a “miscalculation.”
In an interview before leaving the country to attend the 31st Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit meetings at Da Nang, Vietnam, Duterte confirmed asking Santiago to resign amid his criticisms on his policies.
“He said that it is a waste of money, that it is not the right approach,” the President said.
“He came up with a very incongruous [public] statement... I was offended. He could have asked me for an audience and then tell me all about it,” he added.
Duterte said Santiago should have told him the problem beforehand instead of speaking his thoughts to the media.
“I did not put you there to issue statements to the press. I put you there so that you can come to me if there are problems and show me where I am lacking and what I should do. But you don’t go open to the press and start to blabber,” Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English.
Santiago, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is the second head of the Dangerous Drugs Board to be removed under the Duterte administration.
His predecessor, Benjamin Reyes, also got fired for contradicting the government position that there were 4 million drug users in the Philippines.
In an interview on Nov. 2, Santiago said that Duterte may have been ill-advised when he accepted the construction of the 10,000-bed rehabilitation center inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
Chinese billionaire and philanthropist Huang Rulun had earlier donated the facility, amounting to P1.4 billion.
Santiago then said that the construction of smaller regional rehabilitation centers would have made more sense.
“There was a miscalculation. I don’t know who suggested it to the President... Instead of building one mega-rehabilitation center, we could have built many smaller facilities,” Santiago said in Filipino.
He added that in rehabilitation, family and community support was important, but these would not be available in the Nueva Ecija facility.
In an interview with GMA-7, Santiago said Wednesday that someone must have persuaded Duterte to ask him to resign.
He also said he did not call the project a mistake, and that he had been misquoted by the media.
But a transcript of an ANC interview shows that Santiago, when asked about the project, said in a ix of English and Filipino: “Impractical, that was a mistake, our problem is the President is excited.”
“The money we spent on that could have been used for smaller community-based rehabilitation centers that can accommodate 150 to 200… Five thousand is too big a number,” he also said.
Santiago said that while he was hurt by the quit order, but he said he will continue to support the President, particularly the campaign against illegal drugs.
In an interview with GMA-7, he added: “I was hurt because I served the government for 44 years. I didn’t expect to go out this way.”
On Wednesday, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino said the government needs two more mega-rehabilitation facilities, one each for the Visayas and Mindanao.
At a news conference at the PDEA headquarters in Quezon City, Aquino said the 100,000-square meter Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center with a 10,000-bed capacity at Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija was not enough.
“With due respect to Santiago, sorry. We [even] need two [other facilities] for the Visayas and Mindanao with that [big] capacity,” he said.
He said drug rehabilitation must be mandatory for drug users who surrender.
He said of the total number of surrendered drug addicts under the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, only 1 percent or 2 percent undergo drug rehabilitation.
“What about the 98 percent?” he asked.