Malacañang respects ex-Colombian leader’s opinion — Abella

MANILA — Malacañang respects the opinion of former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria on the Philippines’ ongoing “war against drugs” and said that the government appreciates the ex-president’s concern, a Palace official said Wednesday.

“However, it is unfortunate that international attention to the drug war in the Philippines centers on drug-related killings rather than the breakthroughs of the campaign,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.

Gaviria, president of Colombia from 1990 to 1994, wrote an opinion article published in the New York Times Tuesday in which he said that he is hoping that President Rodrigo Duterte would not commit the same mistake he did in dealing with Colombia’s drug problem.

“We respect the opinion of Gaviria that Colombia’s experience of ‘war against drugs’ cannot be won by the armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone. The Philippine President rightly understood the same insight when he began to address not just crime and illegal drugs but also broadened government efforts into a public health issue,” Abella said.

“But more than a national security problem, the proliferation of drugs in the country has been regarded as a health pandemic,” he said as he pointed out that the second phase of the President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign focuses on the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents.

For this, he cited the government’s efforts to successfully achieve the objectives of the second phase of the campaign.

Among them is the inauguration of the 2,500-patient capacity Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (DATRC) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija last November.

Another drug rehabilitation center, the Residential Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (RTRC) in Agusan del Sur — the first to open in a military camp in Mindanao — was likewise opened last year.

In addition, PhilHealth, the government’s national health insurance program, now covers a two-week drug rehabilitation program reserved at PHP10,000 per member.

Nonetheless, Abella said that while it was unfortunate that international attention has been focused solely on drug-related killings, the Palace still appreciates the concerns aired by the ex-Colombian leader.

“We appreciate the ex-Colombian president’s concerns and we encourage our people to see our situation in the light of comprehensive nation-building,” Abella said.