PH Dangerous Drug Board chair fired for making critical remarks on President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug war policy

Retired Gen. Dionisio Santiago (File photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte does not tolerate “out of line” underlings.

This was the bitter lesson learned by Dangerous Drugs Board chair Dionisio Santiago after he was forced to resign on Monday by Duterte after he expressed misgivings over the practicality of having a mega-rehabilitation center in Nueva Ecija for drug dependents.

Santiago, who was head of the anti-illegal drugs policy making body for five months, was asked to resign following his controversial opinion where he said the establishment of the mega rehabilitation center, a pet project of Duterte, was a mistake.

In a press conference at the end of the month, Santiago told reporters the rehabilitation center, which is expected to house 10,000 patients, would be “ineffective” because aside from being crowded, it would cut the patients ties from support systems like their families.

“That was a mistake. The problem is, the President got excited, but the money could have been spent on small community-based rehabilitation programs that can accommodate only between 150 to 200 people,” he had said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Chinese business tycoon Huang Rulun Image ©

The center was financed by Chinese business tycoon Huang Rulun who is currently facing a corruption probe in China.

Santiago is the second DDB chair to be fired for objective remarks about the administration’s anti-drugs policy.

Last May, Duterte fired Benjamin Reyes for giving the “wrong” figure of drug users in the country which was based on a DDB survey from January 1, 2015, to February 5, 2016, which shows that there are 1.8 million illegal drugs users in the country, way below the four million mark being claimed by the president.

For this Duterte told Reyes: “You do not contradict your own government.”

Meanwhile, Duterte defended his action saying that he was offended by Santiago’s remarks.

“He came up with every incongruous statement that I was offended. He could have asked me for an audience and then tell me all about it,” Duterte said in a news briefing, before departing for Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

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