Erap: Leave Rody’s war on drugs alone

The Daily Tribune| Written by: Tribune Wires| October 25, 2016

Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada said that the United States should not interfere with the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

In an exclusive interview with the Tribune, Estrada said that Duterte’s crackdown of the narcotics industry has been “positive.”

“The Duterte administration’s war on drugs should not be restrained by the US because it is highly an internal concern,” the former President said in a sit-down interview.

“Instead of criticizing the administration’s efforts, other countries should help (Duterte) because it has been productive in terms of fighting the illegal drug menace,” he added.

Estrada said that even before Duterte took hold of Malacañang, he already had the initiative to fight the illegal trade in his City.

“We have fought drugs here in Manila. You know, the (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) cited that there are 92.2 percent barangays here in Metro Manila that are infiltrated by drugs. We had the initiative to fight it,” the 79-year-old local Chief Executive noted, adding that the same is true in curbing crime in Manila. Even before Duterte officially became President, Estrada was able to decrease crime rates in Manila from a monthly average 27.88 percent in January 2016 to 18.22 percent last April.

Crime solution efficiency has also improved from 24.55 percent in 2013 to 38.05 percent in 2015.

Over the weekend, Estrada reportedly warned Duterte of America’s possible move to oust him from Office due to his anti-US pronouncements, particularly that of separating from the traditional US-RP alliance.
Estrada also lauded Duterte’s efforts to strengthen the Philippines’ ties with China.

“The move to befriend China is a positive move. We need more friends, Asian friends,” he said.

“China, in the first place, has been of help to the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and I know for a fact that China does not want ti willing to interfere in our internal affairs,” the former President said. Meanwhile, US ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg, in an interview yesterday at the Villamor Air Base, doused Estrada’s fears.

The US ambassador stressed that the US has been treating the Philippines as a “co-equal and sovereign country.

Despite Duterte’s tirades, Goldberg said that the US remains committed to the Philippines as treaty ally.  Goldberg also stressed the anti-United States pronouncements by Duterte will not affect the US “rebalance” or “pivot” to Asia.

“We have a commitment to maintaining very strong United States presence and relationships in the region and so that will continue, you know the pivot or rebalance is based very much on the knowledge that with the rise of China, with the rise of the Soviet economies, the Southeast Asia, the rest of Asia, the demographic changes of the young population, that Asia is a hugely important area in the 21st century for the prosperity and wellbeing of the United States,” explained Goldberg.

As a treaty ally, the Philippines plays a vital role in the US pivot to Asia –allowing American troops the use of military facilities under the Mutual Defense Treaty and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

But such agreements between the Philippines and the US governments are threatened by Duterte’s pronouncements he is separating from the US militarily and economically. He made this announcement during a state visit in China recentlybut clarified that separation does not mean dumping the ties with the US.

Goldberg, who himself was once at the receiving end from Duterte’s tirades, repeatedly stressed that recent pronouncements made by Duterte were contrary to the good historical ties between the US and the Philippine governments.

“It’s clear that many of the things that have been said are inconsistent with friendship and alliance and so we are trying to sort out exactly what that means in policy terms,” said Goldberg, who was once called by Duterte as “gay”.

He said that US State Department Assistant Secretary for Asia and the Pacific Daniel Russel is now in Manila to seek clarification of Duterte’s announcement he is “separating” from the US militarily and economically.

Goldberg emphasized that the United States has been treating the Philippines as a “co-equal and a sovereign country.”

As such, the US ambassador said that the US will not prevent the Philippines from having closer ties with China or any other nation as has been announced by Duterte.

“We think that everyone should have good relations in the region, including China, the US has a hugely important relationship with China and we think other countries should as well, have good relations and seek that relations and that includes economic relations and the rest,” said Goldberg, who is completing his Manila stint.
Despite Duterte’s tirades, Goldberg expressed optimism that the Philippine and US governments could address the matter positively.

“What’s important is that our two countries, our two peoples have a tremendous relationship, it’s a historical relationship, it has its ups and downs…we’ve always worked through those ups and downs. I will leave the Philippines this week still very optimistic that we can do that and you know some of the language we’ve heard is inconsistent with that friendship, with an alliance and so we want to see exactly what it means,” said Goldberg.

For his part, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana thanked the US government for the second C130 cargo plane transferred to the Air Force.

“We thank the United States government for extending financial assistance to us by co-funding the acquisition cost of the two units of this type of aircraft,” said Lorenzana.

Lorenzana said that the additional C130 will definitely boost the Air Force’s humanitarian assistance and disaster response capability.