By TED TUVERA AND JOYCE ANN L. ROCAMORA / THE DAILY TRIBUNE NEWS
Vice President Leni Robredo’s suggestion to decriminalize drug use in the Philippines is a regressive point, a Palace official said yesterday. Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, in a chance interview, said that Robredo seemingly encourages the illegal drug trade to boom instead of being finished off with the recommendation she pitched over the weekend. Robredo’s call is displaced in the first place, the President’s lawyer surmised. “In the first place, the use of drugs is not criminal. It’s drug-pushing that’s illegal. Anyway, why would you decriminalize drug trafficking? It would expand the number of drug pushers,” Panelo told reporters. “Doing so, the pushers will continue to operate without fear of being prosecuted,” he added. Over the weekend, the Vice President said at a student forum at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños campus that state-sponsored drug wars, particularly in Latin America, were never successful. Robredo then suggested to imitate what Portugal did when it decriminalized personal possession of illegal drugs in 2001. “If we only study the drug campaigns around the world, we will see that the countries that used violence in combating drugs never succeeded. Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico — these countries used force, they fought fire with fire. Many lives were lost but they were not successful,” she said. “What did Portugal do? Portugal found a system to combat drugs that was peaceful and orderly. They reformed their laws; they strengthened rehabilitation (of addicts); they fixed their institutions responsible for rehabilitating,” Robredo added. The Duterte administration, since its first day in office, was tough in launching its no nonsense narcotics crackdown that has convinced thousands of drug users and pushers to surrender to authorities. However, more than 7,000 deaths have been attributed to the President’s war on drugs. Duterte himself, in most of his speeches, said that the bloody crackdown on the illegal trade will continue “until the last drug pusher is killed.” Meanwhile, the Vice President camp said that former Sen. Bongbong Marcos’s move to junk Robredo’s counter-protest against his election case lacks factual and legal support. In a statement, Romulo Macalintal, veteran election lawyer and legal counsel for Robredo, said they are constrained to issue this statement following Marcos’ press release that Vice President Robredo’s counter-protest should be dismissed for non-payment of the fees required by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). “Like a vagrant, Marcos’ claim has no visible means of factual or legal support,” he stressed. In an omnibus motion filed before the PET, the losing vice presidential bet urged the tribunal to dismiss Robredo’s counter-protest, who defeated him narrowly in the May 2016 polls. Marcos stated reasons on the basis of Robredo’s delayed deposit to PET’s required fee for the party’s separate cases to proceed.