GMA is drug czar

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — RESOLVED to effectively address the drug menace in the country, President Macapagal-Arroyo is temporarily taking over as acting anti-illegal drugs czar.

The President announced this in her opening statement at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting on illegal drugs as she bared the government’s all-out war against the drug scourge which she dubbed a “Trinity Against Illegal Drugs.” She said this means the anti-drug campaign should be waged on three fronts — law enforcement, judicial action and policy-making.

“I will temporarily act as the czar or overseer of the war against illegal drugs. Then I will turn over the job to the tandem of (Dangerous Drugs Board chairman) Tito Sotto and (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chairman) Jionex Santiago,” the President said.

In a press briefing after the Cabinet meeting, Sotto said the President will be acting as anti-drugs czar until the controversy surrounding the case of the so-called “Alabang Boys” has been resolved.

Sotto said Mrs. Arroyo will spearhead the campaign against drugs until the independent panel is created to investigate allegations that prosecutors of the Department of Justice were bribed to recommend the release of drug suspects Richard Brodett, Jorge Jordana Joseph, and Joseph Tecson who were arrested in a buy-bust operation last Sept. 20.

He said the panel was given 15 days after being constituted to finish its probe but the members were yet to be named as of press time.

The President said the case of the Alabang Boys, “should jolt us into action.”

“Not with temporizing and tentativeness but with resoluteness and the grit of a government fighting a just and moral war,” she said.

She earlier ordered all DoJ officials involved in the case to take a leave of absence. “Ang hakbang na ito ay para ipakita sa lahat kung gaano kaseryoso ang pamahalaan sa kampanya laban sa suliranin ng droga,” she said.

“The Chief Executive stressed the resolve of her administration to fight the drug menace saying “a country awash with illegal drugs is a country compromised, its law and order institutions tainted and corrupted.”

“We should not allow this menace to spread its tentacles, ruin our youth and gnaw on the integrity of our law-enforcement institutions and our judicial system,” she said.

House Speaker Prospero Nograles led some administration solons in welcoming the decision of the President to personally lead the fight against illegal drugs.

According to Nograles, Mrs. Arroyo being the President is the best person to handle the issue.

“I guess nobody can do it better than her under the circumstances…with the vast power and resources of the office of the president,” Nograles said.