Sotto: Drug-free PH 'almost impossible,' aim to be 'drug resistant' instead

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday, October 8, that aspiring for a drug-free Philippines is "almost impossible" and suggested to work on being "drug resistant" instead.

"We have to look at the possibility of being a drug-resistant country instead of drug-free. That drug-free [goal] at this point is almost impossible because we have not been successful in the other half of the fight, which is the demand-reduction strategy," Sotto said in a media forum.

Sotto said that as long as there are drug dependents, "they will look for a way and a substance to abuse."

The Senate President added that even if all the drug dealers are killed, "there will be new pushers" the following day.

"Even if you kill all the pushers in the country today, there will be new pushers tomorrow. They will be replaced by another pusher because there is a demand. So there must be a holistic approach," Sotto said.

Sotto, who used to chair the Dangerous Drugs Board, has filed a bill that seeks to  abolish the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the DDB, to be replaced by another office that has supervisory powers to look at a "whole-of-government" approach in curbing proliferation of illegal drugs.

Both PDEA and DDB disagree that their offices need to be abolished, saying this would be like "abandoning" the war on drugs.

New witnesses

At the media forum, Sotto also said that there will be "one or two new witnesses" at the Senate hearing on so-called ninja cops or police who recycle seized illegal drugs, on Wednesday, October 9.

At a media interview on Tuesday, Sotto said he had signed "more than 5 subpoenas" for what he anticipated to be an "explosive" Wednesday hearing.

Sotto maintained that the ninja cops issued started even before the Duterte administration.

"The ninja cop controversy emanated from events in the past administration, not this administration of President Duterte. That was an issue in 2013," Sotto said.

Asked whether top cop Oscar Albayalde conspired in a cover-up of an irregular drug operation in Mexico, Pampanga, in 2013, Sotto said he will wait for the committee report first "before making any recommendations." But he cleared Albayalde of tainting the drug war. (READ: 'Spectacle of a grand cover-up': Senate hearing bares how 'ninja cops' remain in service)

"That is an administrative issue, not an illegal drugs issue. It was an issue on suspension na pinakikiusap na 'wag muna iimplement (merely asking not to implement it yet). It's not related to the issue on drugs," Sotto said.

Albayalde had admitted to calling Aquino when they were both police regional directors, asking the latter not to implement the dismissal order of the 13 Pampanga "ninja cops" over questionable 2013 anti-drug operation, pending a "review" of the case.

The issue of drug recycling among cops was revived during the PDEA budget hearing on September 16 when Aquino, in response to senators' questions, confirmed that the act persisted to this day, even with the Duterte administration's war on drugs. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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