The Daily Manila Shimbun


Roque says gov’t did not spend for drug rehab in Nueva Ecija

November 2, 2017

The Philippine government did not spend any amount for the construction of the mega drug rehabilitation center, which has a capacity of 10,000.

Acting Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the comment in reaction to Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Dionisio Santiago's statement that the construction of the facility inside a military camp in Nueva Ecija was a mistake and a waste of money because its use has not been maximized.

Santiago has said community rehabilitation centers should instead be built.

"Well, as you know, the government did not spend for the mega rehab center. That was donated by a Chinese philantrophist," Roque said.

The construction of the P1-billion Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija was donated by Chinese billionaire Huang Rulun.

"While it's the opinion of the head of the Dangerous Drugs Board, our assurance is, no government fund was wasted," Roque said.

"That was a decision made by the donor and we can’t do anything about it. But we will certainly consider what the expert has said and in the future, if we are to invest public funds, we will pursue the strategy recommended by the head of the DDB," he added.

In his war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte has been quoting Santiago's figure there were  3 million drug addicts in the country when he was still the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Adding Santiago's estimate and his own estimate, Duterte has said there were at least 4 million drug dependents.

Meanwhile, Roque welcomed the creation of "Manlaban sa (Fight the) Extrajudicial Killings" composed of lawyers, law professors, judges and law students.

"We welcome that because you see under our existing laws, not just in the Philippines but worldwide, there is not one legal system in the world that does not recognize the principle of presumption of regularity in the discharge of official functions. The only way by which we can overcome this presumption is if there is controverting evidence," he said.

"So if there's evidence that the presumption should not apply, the presumption will not be applied," said Roque, a lawyer by profession. The Duterte administration has been criticized for the alleged extrajudicial killings of drug suspects allegedly perpetrated by the policemen.

But according to Roque, a known human rights advocate, he accepted his new job knowing fully well Duterte's position against extra-legal killings.

"He (Duterte) will not tolerate murders. He will only tolerate killings when it is in line with duty and when the engagement is legal and he had, in fact, asked that the police officers involved in the Kian (delos Santos) killing be arrested by (Philippine National Police Director) General (Ronald) Bato (dela Rosa)," he said.

Delos Santos was a 17-year old teenager, who was allegedly a victim of summary killing by policemen who conducted anti-drug operations in Caloocan City last August.

On the result of the third quarter Social Weather Stations survey, showing 46 percent of Filipinos agreed and 35 percent disagreed that it cannot be avoided that there are innocent civilians who will die to eradicate the drug problem, Roque said, "Well, in any war, unfortunately, there will be collateral damage."

But he said the goal of the government is to minimize the collateral damage and to uphold the right to life.

"As far as this obligation is concerned, there is a continuing obligation of the state to investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of these killings," he said.

"And that is why earlier, I said, I welcome the creation of that group of lawyers because we need the help of civil society in overcoming the presumption of regularity in the discharge of functions," he added. Celerina Monte/DMS