Sotto to Duterte: Illegal drugs, abuse are 'two different animals'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21, 2021) - Senate President Tito Sotto III said the Duterte administration could have approached the proliferation of illegal drugs in the country differently.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday, Sotto stressed that illegal drugs and drug abuse are "two different animals."

"The problem of illegal drugs is confronted by drug abuse. Those are two different animals. People think it's related but it's a different approach," said Sotto, who will run for vice president next year, possibly against Duterte.

READ: Lacson-Sotto tandem confirmed for 2022 polls

"The approach on illegal drugs is supply reduction and that's what the government is doing," he added. "We must enhance that by the issue of prosecution being updated, upgraded and enhanced."

He pointed out that a demand reduction strategy on drug use cannot be done in just a matter of months or a few years. And even if the enforcement of the drug war "somehow worked", it failed to adopt a holistic approach which includes prosecution, drug prevention, and rehabilitation of drug dependents.

Aim for 'drug-resistant Philippines'

Sotto also pointed out that the Duterte administration should instead aim to have a "drug-resistant Philippines".

"Siguro dapat ang maging attitude natin, ng gobyerno (Perhaps the right attitude of the government), is to look for a drug-resistant Philippines. A drug-free Philippines is not possible but a drug-resistant Philippines is possible," he said.

Sotto also urged Duterte to address the status of the drug war in his final State of the Nation Address on July 26.

READ: Duterte should lay down COVID-19 roadmap, address WPS issues in last SONA - Sotto 

Duterte promised to end illegal drugs in the first three to six months of his presidency, only to admit later that he underestimated the problem deeply rooted even within the government system.

READ: SONA 2021: A look at President Duterte's war on drugs five years on 

Government data shows that over 6,000 people were killed in anti-illegal drug operations since 2016, but the International Criminal Court said up to 30,000 civilians lost their lives in the bloody campaign.

Duterte continued to defend his administration's war on drugs and maintained that he never ordered to kill a person involved in illegal drugs yet he admitted he threatened to kill them.

READ: Duterte chides ICC on drug war probe: I will only face a PH court with a Filipino judge