Seares: Hiring, firing of Robredo: Guess who got the most out of 18-day charade

Pachico A. Seares

A LITTLE over two weeks and less than three weeks, news media reports said, in computing the length of Vice President Leni Robredo’s term as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

Or 18 days, excluding the day she accepted the appointment (Nov. 6) and including the day news of her dismissal was confirmed by Malacañang (Nov. 24).

Why it was expected

Most people were not surprised. Opposition leaders, particularly, said it was expected, citing these “circumstances”:

[1] President Duterte appointed her to the post not because he trusted her or wanted her to succeed but to prove she could do no better than he in the campaign against illegal drugs; she was being lured to a trap, they said.

[2] Her job was not made clear, contrasting and alternating, from “drug czar with full powers” to being limited to the rehabilitation and education phase; from Cabinet member to non-Cabinet member; from an executive with access to confidential information to an outsider with no security clearance.

[3] Her work was being distracted by criticisms from Malacañang on what she has been doing and her own confusion on what really was her job description; thus, the spectacle of an intramural within the government campaign.

[4] The prez publicly said he didn’t trust her, she being the leader of the opposition and a critic of his methods in fighting against illegal drugs. The veep baited him by consulting the US, which has been critical of the President’s “drug war,” and teasing the boss, “Just tell me when you want me out.”

Although there was no suspense, it was not boring, said Sen. Ping Lacson who had predicted the game’s end and even advised Robredo to watch her back.

But who reaped more from the Digong-Leni spectacle on the national stage, which was rivaled only by the Southeast Asian Games debacle in cauldron purchase and hosting preparations?

Leni’s pre-conditions

It must be Robredo for these reasons:

[1] It gave her robust national attention, which she never got since she assumed office on June 30, 2016; after she was evicted from the Cabinet early on, she had been doing small-ticket projects across the country, which foreign affairs chief Teddy Locsin derided, until she was offered the limelight in the war on drugs.

[2] She clearly laid the limits of what she hoped to accomplish, even as she announced the risks of being the probable target of a political trap, of failing because the agencies wouldn’t follow her, and not ever succeeding because they would want her to fail. In sum, she didn’t raise expectations. Instead, she set pre-conditions, not grandiose goals.

“I’ll do it,” she said, saying only that she was ready “to endure everything.” She hoped that she could save one innocent life from extrajudicial killing. It is not known if she did during her short stay. The fact is that if she scored zero in everything, she wouldn’t have disappointed anyone who must measure her by the conditions she laid down.

She played along

The appointment apparently started as “flippant joke” that Duterte saw as a chance to make Robredo fall on her face. Robredo on the other hand played the role of a “complicit victim” who thought she wouldn’t lose anything by playing along.

It appears that Robredo gained a windfall in publicity and goodwill. The composure of her camp while the administration has scrambled to wipe out the points she made, depicting her as incompetent and unprepared for the job she took, must tell us who got the most out of the caper.

But who are laughing? Not Duterte or Robredo, between whom Lacson wondered who. Drug lords, who have remained unnamed and unharmed, must be the ones terribly amused.