Ex-PDEA chief, whose drugs statistics Duterte has used as basis for ‘4-M addicts,’ appointed as drugs board chief

After firing the former Dangerous Drugs Board chairman for ‘contradicting’ the number of drug addicts in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed retired General Dionisio Santiago as the new DDB chief.

President Duterte has used Santiago’s five-year-old data as to the number of drug addicts in the Philippines, which was said to be 3 million then, as his basis in saying that there are 4 million addicts now.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella confirmed Santiago’s appointment on July 9, saying, “General Santiago’s return to the national government with his appointment to the DDB will greatly contribute to the President’s vision of a drug-free Philippines.” Abella also noted how Santiago’s “expertise and advocacy is fighting illegal drugs,” which he used as a campaign promise last elections.

Santiago was a former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Director-General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) from April 2006 to January 2011.

But unlike Santiago who said five years ago that there were 3 million addicts in the Philippines, the dismissed DDB chief Benjamin Reyes, had been using the agency’s 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines as basis in saying that the figure was much lower at 1.8 million.

Reyes even shared the stage with the United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard during a forum hosted by the University of the Philippines on May 5 to 6 and presented 1.8 million.

Duterte did not like it and fired Reyes on May 24 upon returning from his Russian trip, which was cut short by the Marawi conflict.
“And I would like to put to task publicly this (Benjamin) Reyes. You know five years ago, [Dionisio] Santiago who was the PDEA chief gave us a figure of three million. Ang binigay ni Reyes sa chairman sa Dangerous Board, ‘yung accomplishment ni Bato ng PNP. That’s 1.8. And dala-dala ng babae [referring to Callamard] was 1.8. When I have been telling everybody, everything that there’s about four million drug addict(s),” Duterte said in his arrival speech.

“You’re fired today. Get out of the service. You do not contradict your own government…You’re just a civilian member of a board,” Duterte added.

The President further described Reyes as someone who is not an “implementor of the law.”

“The correct count is the police and the PDEA,” Duterte said.

With Santiago’s appointment, a netizen asked if this will make the ‘4 million lie official,’ referring to the figure being used by Duterte during his drug war-related speeches.

Bernard Ong said that he has a “fearless forecast” about what might happen to the DDB and the figure used to justify the bloody drug war in the country.

“Fearless forecast: The next DDB review will show 4m addicts,” Ong said.

“Unless they are stupid enough to show a higher figure. In which case one should conclude the Drug War is a failure because drug addicts keep multiplying despite the raids, surrenders, and killings,” he added.

Sources: ( , )

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