VICE-PRESIDENT Maria Leonor G. Robredo yesterday met with United States Embassy officials to talk about how the US could help the country’s anti-illegal drug campaign, she said in a statement.
Officials from the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the State Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Agency for International Development gave a “comprehensive briefing,” Ms. Robredo said.
“They signified their full support and cooperation in our campaign against illegal drugs,” Ms. Robredo, the opposition leader whom President Rodrigo R. Duterte put in charge of his administration’s war on drugs, said in Filipino. “As a friend of the Philippines, they will do everything so we will succeed in this fight.”
Ms. Robredo last week vowed to enforce the state’s anti-illegal drug campaign “within the bounds of the rule of law.” She said she would treat the drug problem not only as a crime, but also as a health issue.
The vice-president has repeatedly cited the need to re-assess the government strategy against illegal drugs given the rising number of drug dependents.
Philippine police have said they have killed about 6,000 people in illegal drug raids, many of them resisting arrest. Some local nongovernmental organizations and the national Commission on Human Rights have placed the death toll at more than 27,000.
“All of them shared their programs in the Philippines in connection with the campaign against illegal drugs,” Ms. Robredo said of the US officials.
The parties also talked about the deficiencies in the drug war and how the US could help in beefing up the campaign, Ms. Robredo said.
Among those discussed yesterday was the possibility of changing the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act to ensure it is still in keeping with the times, Ms. Robredo said.
The government might also have to boost its program for drug use prevention and community-based rehabilitation, she said.
Also yesterday, police Officer-in-Charge Lieutenant General Archie Francisco Gamboa said they would discuss with Ms. Robredo their strategy against illegal drugs.
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra for his part said he did not want Ms. Robredo to join police anti-illegal drug operations because these could endanger her.
A proposal for police to use body cameras for transparency in raids would suffice to know what happens in operations, he told reporters yesterday. The Justice chief also said her presence could distract law enforcers.
Ms. Robredo last week said she had agreed to head the Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign, if only to stop the killings.
The vice-president accepted the post against the advice of many of her party mates, who said the appointment might be a trap. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vann Marlo M. Villegas with Emmanuel Tupas, Philippine Star