Robredo fired as anti-drugs czar

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo

FOUR days after President Rodrigo Duterte said he does not trust Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, he fired her as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (Icad).

Robredo served as anti-drugs czar for only 18 days since she accepted her appointment on November 6, 2019.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed in a text message Sunday, November 24, that the President has fired Robredo as Icad co-chairperson.

He did not specify any reason.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in a statement issued around 9 p.m. Sunday, confirmed that Robredo has been fired.

He said it was in response to the suggestion of Liberal Party President, Senator Francis Pangilinan, to just fire the Vice President from her post, and to Robredo’s “taunt and dare” for the President to just tell her that he wants her out.

He accused Robredo of politicizing the issue, unduly baiting international attention, embarrassing the country and detrimentally undermining the government’s efforts to preserve the general welfare.

Robredo, however, has not presented any new program that she envisioned to implement to address the illegal drugs situation.

“The President has been more than patient enough, giving the Vice President adequate opportunity to discuss possible courses of action with him. More than two weeks have passed since the Vice President accepted her designation as ICAD-Chairperson. But she has not presented any new program that she envisioned to implement,” Panelo said.

“In a campaign where people’s lives are at risk, a day is an eternity. The government can not twiddle its thumb and sit idly hoping for a flash of brilliance from the Vice President,” he added.

Had Robredo been serious in addressing the cause of the drug problem, Panelo said she should have gone down to the grassroots -- talking to the victims, to their families, and to the communities.

Instead, Panelo said she opted to have an audience with the United Nations and the United States embassy officials who remain out-of-touch from the realities of the local drug problem on the ground.

Panelo said the President's designation of Robredo was not like any offer to perform a certain task.

“It was an offer to make the campaign against illegal drugs better - a chance where both this Administration and the political opposition could have unified in fighting the social ill that has destroyed the lives of many and imperilled thousands others, in addition to creating a multitude of dysfunctional families and threatening the present and the next generation to useless existence,” Panelo said.

He said Robredo has instead used such opportunity as a platform to attack the methods undertaken by the administration.

“Such tack was even motivated by hubris to prove their past arguments against the anti-illegal drug operations were correct. It at once crumbled as her request for police data validated the falsity of their arguments that the extra-judicial killings are state-sponsored,” Panelo said.

The President was earlier irked upon learning that Robredo planned to meet with international community to discuss the Philippines’ anti-narcotics drive.

Robredo also asked for a list of high-value targets, a request that was denied her. Duterte said it would “dangerous” to give Robredo all the classified information on his administration’s war on illegal drugs given her penchant to share information with the international community.

Panelo, in his statement, said “given the transparency of her motive to politicize the issue, the intention of the Vice President to seek access to confidential law enforcement information can not be given the benefit of the doubt as being free from malice or manipulation.”

Robredo has yet to issue a comment.

Duterte appointed Robredo to the post on October 31, 2019, just a few days after he taunted her to lead the anti-drugs campaign because of a report quoting her that the campaign was ineffective.

According to Panelo, the functions of the Icad, as performed by its four clusters, are already spelled out in Executive Order No. 15.

So is the role of its head of ensuring that the objectives of the Icad are accomplished.

Panelo said Robredo should have sought an audience with the President if she wanted clarification on the scope and limits of her new task.

“As always, she talked -- not with her appointing authority -- but right in front of the cameras asking the President on her supposed mandate,” Panelo said.

He said the President gave the Vice President ample authority and powers to direct all responsible government instrumentalities to act in accordance with the strategic objectives that she might have had in mind, in line with putting an end to the drug menace in our country.

However, the Vice President resorted to unduly baiting international attention on the matter, particularly from persons or entities that know little or none at all about our situation, other than their own bias or unsubstantiated prejudgment.

“It is time to put the issue to eternal rest and bury it in the graveyard of what could have been, as well as dismiss any obstacle that impedes the government to focus on the issue at hand,” Panelo added. (With NASE/SunStar Philippines)