Philippine drugs board chief quits after contradicting President

He, however, quitted a few days after he publicly said the construction of a 10,000-bed “mega drug rehab” facility was a mistake.

Retired army general Dionisio Santiago on Tuesday said he quitted as chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board after receiving a call from Duterte’s executive secretary.

Countering illicit drugs is the centerpiece policy of Duterte’s presidency and he has repeatedly threatened to kill dealers and users and said he was willing to jail anybody for it.

His crackdown has killed thousands of Filipinos, but the administration insists it is committed to arresting dealers and rehabilitating users.

He cited the new facility and the voluntary surrender of 1.3 million addicts and pushers as a sign of its positive intent.

“My rule is that the boss is always right and if you think the boss is not right, refers to rule No. 1,” Santiago told newsmen, adding he had already submitted a two-sentence resignation letter.

Santiago had said the government may have miscalculated with the rehab centre and should have pursued a practical community-based rehabilitation programme.

Fewer than 500 people had been admitted to the facility, which was inaugurated in 2016 amid great fanfare and was funded by a wealthy Chinese businessman.

Duterte gave Santiago the job in June after the former head was forced to quit after disputing the president’s repeated statements that there were more than four million Filipino drug addicts.

Duterte had never disclosed the source of that information and some experts said it was exaggerated.

Separately, Duterte’s new health minister, Francisco Duque, voiced his approval for using marijuana “only for research purposes” in medicine.

He said he would prefer marijuana in “pharmaceutical form” if the country legalised its use.

“If it is in raw form, it is uncontrolled, subject to abuse and addiction."

“That is where I believe the risks are more profound,” he said at his first news conference.

Report says there is a pending bill in Congress to legalise and regulate the medical use of cannabis.

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