Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday took President Rodrigo Duterte to task for abruptly firing her from her new job — which he himself had foisted on her — as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), insinuating that there were sinister reasons behind her sacking.
Robredo said in a press conference that contrary to presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo’s claim that she did not go “down to the grassroots,” the vice president said she had, in fact, spoken with local governments and members of the community, and visited rehabilitation centers.
“They criticized me non-stop. They said I have no knowledge of crime-fighting and I should not meddle with the police. They said I could not be trusted. They ganged up on me so that I will not succeed. If our objectives were all the same, why can’t we just work together? Are they not serious in their fight [against illegal drugs] or were there some personal agendas which I almost uncovered?” she said in English and Filipino.
Robredo’s firing came a few days after she asked for a list of “high-value targets,” or prominent drug suspects, whom the government intended to arrest. However, the officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police, Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, refused to share the list. Gamboa’s decision was supported by the government — which had previously vowed to give Robredo ample authority to tackle the drug-war as she saw fit — with Panelo claiming, without evidence, that her request was not “free from malice or manipulation.”
Duterte had first dared Robredo to take the ICAD job in a fit of pique after she publicly criticized his handling of the deadly drug war, which was a key campaign promise of his and has since left thousands of suspects dead, despite its questionable impact on the narcotics trade. Robredo’s allies had cautioned her to be wary of the job offer, warning it could merely be a trap aimed at damaging her politically.
The vice president yesterday appeared to be similarly suspicious of the real reasons behind her termination.
“When I accepted this job, I asked them, ‘Are you ready for me?’ Now, my question is, ‘What are you scared of?’ Are you scared I might discover something? Is there anything you fear that people might discover?”
Addressing Duterte, she said, “Mr. President, I didn’t ask for this position. But I took the job you gave me seriously. What the people want is a government that is a true champion, one against illegal drugs. Let’s remember that drugs and drug lords are the real enemies, not me, and most especially not the public.”
Robredo also made it clear that despite her firing, this wouldn’t be the last the public heard from her on the matter.
“Over the next few days, I will present a report to the public. I will divulge what I have discovered and my recommendations. You can be assured that even though I have lost my position [at the ICAD], they cannot take away my determination, the determination to fight the killings, bring the perpetrators to justice, and win the campaign against illegal drugs,” she said.
Meanwhile, the human rights organization Amnesty International Philippines lambasted Duterte for terminating Robredo. In a statement released yesterday, Executive Director Butch Alano said that Robredo “used her position to demand bold and real reforms. Her proposals to end the government’s policy of widespread killings were never given a chance.”
Another group, Human Rights Watch Philippines — which had publicly greeted Robredo’s appointment with optimism — was equally disappointed with Duterte, saying he fired Robredo without even giving her a chance to show what she could contribute.
Carlos Conde, the group’s representative said, “By firing her on such ludicrous grounds, Duterte reveals he was never even remotely sincere and exposes his game to appoint her as a total sham.”
This article, ‘What are you scared of?’: Robredo questions why she was suddenly fired by Duterte, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!