Gov't hits back at ex-Pres. Aquino's drug war comments: Let results speak for themselves

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 2) — Government officials on Wednesday reacted to former President Benigno Aquino III's comments on the lack of progress in the Duterte administration's all-out war against illegal drugs.

Aquino on Tuesday claimed the numbers of drug users  has not decreased since President Rodrigo Duterte succeeded him in July 2016.

"Bakit walang nagbago? Hindi ba dapat may nagbago? Maganda sanang ipaliwanag yung bakit parehong-pareho yung numero," Aquino said.

[Translation: Why didn't anything change? Isn't it right that something should have changed? It'd be nice if they can explain why the numbers are exactly the same.]

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella countered Aquino's criticisms by breaking down the numbers about the administration's drug war.

He said the anti-drug campaign resulted in the voluntary surrender of over 1.3 million drug personalities.

Abella also released data on the arrested drug suspects and seized illegal drugs under their drug war as compared to the six years of Aquino's presidency.

"96,703 drug personalities have been arrested in the first year of the present administration's anti-drug campaign compared to 77,810 drug personalities arrested in the six years of the previous administration. 2,445.80 kilos of shabu has been seized in the first year of the present administration's anti-drug campaign compared to the 3,219.07 kilos of shabu seized in the six years of the previous administration," he said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

He added, "With all due respect to former President Aquino, the results  of PRRD's (short for President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) anti-illegal drug campaign speak for themselves."

Abella hit Aquino for his "jaded" remarks against the current administration.

"Comments like the above from past leaders imply a jaded cynicism borne of a history of political opportunism," he said.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, did not mince words against the former President.

"PNoy's comment on the President Duterte's war on drugs as being ineffective is shamelessly cocky and  an outrageous chutzpah. The criticism comes from someone under whose watch the drug menace proliferated in unsurpassed magnitude due to the previous administration's either gross incompetence in curbing it or criminal neglect in stopping its spread," he said in a statement.

Aquino: Nothing changed in Duterte drug war's first year

Aquino said the numbers during the yearend of 2015 — his last full year as President — was at 1.8 million drug users. He said after more than a year of the Duterte administration's unrelenting fight against illegal drugs, the figure of drug users remains the same.

"Sa isang taon nitong all-out na kampanya laban sa drugs, 1.8 million pa rin ang sinasabi nung survey, at survey na nila yan… Para makita lang natin kung may success o may failure, kailangan mai-compare… Ano ba yung istatistika nung panahon namin? Yung huling binigay sa akin 2015, syempre end ng 2016 hindi na ako Pangulo. Yung huling binigay 1.8, yung huling nilabas 1.8. Parang wala yatang nangyari," he said at the commemoration of the 8th death anniversary of his mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

[Translation: In one year of the all-out campaign against drugs, the survey figure is still at 1.8 million, and they conducted that survey. We have to compare to see if it succeeded or failed. What was the statistics during my time? The last data given to me was in 2015 because I was no longer the President in 2016. I was given 1.8, the latest data they released was 1.8. It seems like nothing happened.]

Aquino cited the Dangerous Drugs Board's (DDB) 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse, which showed there were 1.8 million drug users in the country.

There is still confusion over the number of drug users in the country. Duterte said there are up to four million drug users as a rationale for his anti-drug campaign, while his critics allege this figure is overstated, and fails to justify the alleged killings related to the drug war.

Reference to the lower number of drug users has cost the previous DDB chairman, Benjamin Reyes, his job. New DDB Chair Dionisio Santiago said the 3 million figure for drug users was a "guesstimate."

Related: Dangerous Drugs Board says 3 million figure for drug users 'a guesstimate'

Police waged an all-out war against illegal drugs upon Duterte's orders when he took office on July 1, 2016.

Unrelenting drug war

Two months into his presidency, Duterte admitted he underestimated the country's problem on illegal drugs.

Related: Duterte says he underestimated the problem on drugs

The drug war is widely criticized by a number of sectors, including rights groups, over alleged extrajudicial killings supposedly committed by police officers.

In June, Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa said 3,135 drug suspects were killed during police's anti-drugs operations since the implementation of the drug war.

Despite the criticisms, Duterte during his second State of the Nation Address on July 24, said there will be no let-up in the fight against illegal drugs.

"The fight will be unremitting, as it will be unrelenting... I do not intend to loosen the leash in the campaign or lose the fight against illegal drugs… Despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternatives are either jail or hell," he said.

Related: Duterte says drug suspects will see jail or hell in gov't's 'unrelenting' war