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Duterte on ex-Colombian president’s remarks vs. drug war: That idiot

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday indicated his disgust after former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria said in an opinion piece in the New York Times that going after drug suspects with violence was a mistake.

Gaviria, the Latin American leader who brought to justice notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar in the 1990's, had said the war on drugs was "unwinnable."

"Sabi nila Colombia has been lecturing me about... That idiot," Duterte said in a speech delivered at the 115th founding anniversary of the Bureau of Customs.

Duterte, however, did not mention Gaviria in his speech but the former Colombian leader had urged Duterte not to repeat his mistakes in the campaign against illegal drugs.

Gaviria said his government and every administration "threw everything at the problem — from fumigating crops to jailing every drug pusher in sight."

"Not only did we fail to eradicate drug production, trafficking and consumption in Colombia, but we also pushed drugs and crime into neighboring countries... Tens of thousands of people were slaughtered in our antidrug crusade," Gaviria said.

"This heavy-handed approach to drugs did little to diminish the drug supply and demand in Colombia, much less in markets like Western Europe and the United States... The war on drugs is essentially a war on people," he added.

In his speech, Duterte also claimed that cocaine is safer than shabu.

"You know, doon cocaine. Cocaine pati heroine is not really... Cocaine pati marijuana, medyo okay iyan. You can still communicate," he said.

Duterte also described shabu as a "virulent chemical."

He previously claimed the poor usually consumes shabu since the rich takes less destructive substances.

"One year use plus, you will lose your sanity... Alam ba ninyo ang shabu ang mini-mix diyan tubig ng baterya?" he said.

Shortly before Duterte's speech, Malacañang released a statement on Gaviria's op-ed, saying it respected and appreciated the former Colombian president's opinion.

"The Philippine President rightly understood the same insight when he began to address not just crime and illegal drugs but also broadened government efforts into a public health issue," presidential spokesperson Secretary Ernesto Abella said.

"The second phase of the President’s anti-drug campaign focuses on the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents. More than a national security problem, the proliferation of drugs in the country has been regarded as a health pandemic," he added, pointing out that a mega drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation center in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija was inaugurated in November 2016.

Abella also said that another drug rehabilitation center at a military camp in Agusan del Sur was opened in 2016. He added that the PhilHealth has also covered a two-week drug rehabilitation program reserved at P10,000 per member.

"It is unfortunate that international attention to the drug war in the Philippines centers on drug-related killings rather than the breakthroughs of the campaign. However, we appreciate the ex-Colombian president's concerns and we encourage our people to see our situation in the light of comprehensive nation-building," he said. —NB/MDM, GMA News