By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

MALACAÑANG on Thursday thumbed down the suggestion of former United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Administrator and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark to create a drug policy that “decriminalizes” the use of drugs.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said: “The suggestion of former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to decriminalize the use of drugs as an alternative to the drug war, similar to the proposal by the European Union made two years ago, had already been thumbed down by the President.”

He added: “The other countries’ experiences in addressing illegal substance while educational relative to their method of solving their own drug menace, decriminalizing the use of drugs in the Philippines will not only aggravate but multiply the problem.”

He noted that the Philippines is a country “where the illegal drug industry is a billion-peso industry, where 97% of barangays, or small villages, have or had already been infiltrated.”

“Take out the criminal liability of those involved and you induce and encourage others to be a part of the dreaded evil,” he also said.

According to Mr. Panelo, the campaign of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration against illegal drugs is “anchored on national security and on public health as well.”

“More than 7 out of 10 Filipinos are satisfied with the way the government handles the campaign,” he noted.

He further explained that drug treatment and rehabilitation form part of the second phase of the campaign.

“It is during the Duterte Administration that a 10,000-bed drug rehabilitation center — the country’s biggest — opened in Nueva Ecija. Twenty-seven reformation centers have likewise been established, as of February 2019,” he said.

“We suggest observers, especially those in foreign countries, to understand fully the Philippine government’s strategy in dealing with illegal drugs before being persuaded by one-sided information and crafting unwise if not cerebrally challenged commentaries based thereon.”