(MALAYA) President Arroyo yesterday said there is no "czar" in her government's anti-drug campaign, as Malacaņang lashed at its critics for claiming she is trying to outdo Sen. Panfilo Lacson as a crime buster.

Arroyo, in a speech in Dolores, Quezon, said a lot of people are wondering who is the government's anti-drug czar, arising from her appointment of several prominent personalities in her newest campaign.

"Lahat nagtataka sino ba yung czar? Walang czar. Teamwork ito. Hindi ito panahon na czar ng Russia na diktadura. Teamwork and synergy - iyan ang kailangan natin para labanan ang droga," she said.

As of last count, there are six persons to whom the title of "anti-drug czar" is being applied: Arroyo; Sen. Robert Barbers, who chairs the Senate oversight committee on illegal drugs; former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim, who is the presidential adviser on illegal drugs; Interior Secretary Jose Lina Jr., who chairs the Dangerous Drugs Board; Anselmo Avenido, director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA); and Deputy Director General Edgardo Aglipay, PNP deputy director general for operations, whom Arroyo also placed in charge of the PNP anti-drug campaign.

Arroyo said her government's anti-drug team has been completed and actions are "being sharpened for the weeks to come."

Vice President Teofisto Guingona and Lacson said the appointment of Barbers and Lim could lead to the failure of the anti-drug drive.

They said too many government agencies are now already involved in the campaign.

Lacson said aside from the "Four Aces," referring to Barbers, Lim, and retired police officials Reynaldo Jaylo and Lucio Margallo who were appointed PDEA directors, other agencies are involved in the drive like the PNP anti-drugs task force, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, NBI and the National Capital Region Police Office

"There are so many agencies that are working to solve one single problem, which in the long run could be counter-productive especially since aside from drugs, the government should also focus on the problems of poverty alleviation, ballooning budget deficit, kidnapping, graft and corruption and hosts of other problems," Lacson said.

Lacson said "the creation of task forces would defeat the purpose of PDEA as the super body mandated to fight drug traffickers."

"The concept of creating the PDEA was a step in the right direction. Its creation paved the way for the creation of a super body, which was mainly responsible and dedicated to fighting drugs. Therefore, finger-pointing will be eliminated," he added.

Guingona said "too many cooks would spoil the broth."

"There must only be one driver. In an airplane, there is a co-pilot but he is under the principal pilot. A vehicle runs smoother if there is only one driver. If there are too many drivers in one car, there will be an accident," Guingona said.

Guingona said there could be "clash of strategy and direction" with too many presidential advisers and government agencies involved.

Barbers said he would not dispense executive functions.

"My role now is limited only in giving advice and consultative. Because there is a constitutional prohibition, I cannot join the operation," Barbers said.

He added: "I could not be very effective" as an anti-drug czar because his time and attention would be divided between fighting the drug menace and working as a senator.

Barbers said to prove his sincerity in ridding the country of illegal drugs, he would even forgo running in the 2004 presidential elections.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio said the functions of each personality will be delineated.

Bunye chided Palace critics for injecting politics into the anti-drug campaign, particularly those who are saying that Arroyo is trying to match Lacson's image as a crime buster as part of her supposed 2004 plans.

"That's the problem with many people. They can't leave politics out of the picture. They always inject politics into everything that the President does. That's the reason why the President is shying away from politics and she'd rather concentrate on the substantial work to be done," Bunye said.

On today's anti-drug summit organized by the House, Bunye said: "The drug summit is supposed to enlist the support of all sectors. The President has always said that the approach to the drug problem should be multi-sectoral and should be participated in by as many stakeholders as possible." (With Joan Dairo)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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