Robredo opposes Duterte's 'harsher' drug war plan: Killing not the solution

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday opposed President Rodrigo Duterte's plans of a "harsher" anti-drug campaign, which he himself said could be bloody.

In an interview in Cebu City, Robredo said nothing was solved almost three years into Duterte's drug war which has left over 5,000 suspects dead according to government data.

"Matuto tayo sa nangyari over the last two and a half years. Ang daming buhay iyong ibinuwis, hindi naman natin na-resolve iyong problema sa droga," Robredo said when asked about Duterte's promise of a "harsher" war on drugs.

[Translation: "Let us learn from what happened over the last two and a half years. Many lives were lost but the drug problem was not resolved."]

Robredo added that the government should focus on running after syndicates that smuggle illegal drugs into the country.

"Ang dapat sanang parusahan natin, iyong mga nagdadala ng mga droga dito sa Pilipinas (Those who smuggle drugs into the Philippines are the ones who should be punished)," Robredo said. "Hindi iyong pinapatulan natin iyong mga maliliit, na iyong mga maliliit na mga gumagamit, dapat sana tingnan natin iyon na biktima (We should not focus on the small-time drug users whom we should actually see as victims)."

Duterte in a speech in Malacañang on Wednesday said the discovery of floating cocaine packages in different parts of the country are proof that international drug cartels have infiltrated Philippine shores, and that drug dealers will be killed regardless of nationality.

READ: Duterte warns of a 'bloodier' drug war amid floating cocaine discoveries

Malacañang on Thursday explained that by warning of an intensified drug war the President meant he would be "relentless" in his campaign against illegal drugs and will focus more on it.

"In fact he has instructed police officers to do everything in their power, in accordance with law, to dismantle the entire drug apparatus in the Philippines," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace press briefing.

Some lawmakers, meanwhile, are cautioning the President against human rights violations.

"Kahit bago niya sinabi na magiging harsh, harsh na talaga. Higit 20,000 na napapatay ayon sa mga human rights organizations at para paulit ulit niya sabihin sa kanyang SONA o sa ibang public statements, lalo lang nagpapatindi ng lungkot, takot, at rejection sa ganyang social, economic problem," opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said.

[Translation: Even before he said it would be harsh, it has always been harsh. More than 20,000 were killed according to human rights organizations and for him to make public statements such as those, these only worsen the sadness, fear, and rejection in this social and economic problem."]

Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, recalled the murder case of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, killed in a police operation in Caloocan in August 2017.

READ: Duterte: No pardon for cops guilty of Kian slay

"Yung collateral damage lalaki lalo yan kung itutuloy lang natin ng walang pakundangan at hindi natin icocorrect yung mga pagkakamali na atin nang nakita (The collateral damage will grow especially if we will continue with the drug war without correcting the mistakes we have seen)," Villanueva said.

Malacañang has said there are no state-sponsored killings, adding that it is committed to investigate officers who violate and abuse their power.

CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.