VICE President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo made the right move in accepting President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to serve as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad).
Liberal Party (LP) member Democrito “Mocring” Barcenas said the second highest official “made the right choice.”
Robredo, an LP chairperson, accepted on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 the task to jointly leading Icad with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino, saying this is her chance to help end extrajudicial killings.
Police Regional Office 7 Director Valeriano de Leon welcomed Robredo’s move.
However, militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Central Visayas described the President’s offer as a “trap.”
At first, Barcenas did not want Robredo to accept the role.
“At first, I was not in favor of her joining the Cabinet of Duterte. But after I heard of her explanation this afternoon, I was totally convinced that she was in the right direction because her first priority is the value of human life,” he told SunStar Cebu.
Barcenas is a human rights lawyer who took part in the resistance to the authoritarian regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos, who is adored by Duterte.
Before winning the 2016 presidential elections, Duterte had vowed to stop the illegal drug trade in six months. He failed.
Duterte’s brutal war on drugs has claimed thousands of lives and earned the ire of international human rights groups, including Amnesty International (AI).
AI reported on its website last July that it identified 20 cases in which 27 people were killed, many of which appeared to be extrajudicial executions. These killings took place across Bulacan province between May 2018 and April 2019.
Barcenas described Robredo’s role in Icad as a “challenge.”
“She knows that it would be better to be part of the crusade against the war on drugs than just fold her hands and keep on criticizing President Duterte. I have full faith in her,” he said.
The Vice President announced her decision in a press conference.
“My most important consideration is simple: If this is a chance for me to stop the killings of innocent persons and hold those responsible accountable, I will bear this burden. I accept the position that the President has offered me,” she said in Tagalog.
For his part, de Leon said it is good to see the President and Vice President working together against illegal drugs.
Bayan, in a press statement, praised Robredo’s decision to reform the crusade against illegal drugs, but the group sees the Duterte offer as a “political maneuver.”
The group said the President wants to use Robredo as his “scapegoat for his crimes against humanity.”
“Duterte precisely knows that the failure of his drug war has caused rage from families of victims, human rights defenders, and from the Filipino people. The real goal of Duterte is to make the people veer away from the fact that he failed to provide genuine economic, social and political change in our country,” read a portion of Bayan’s statement.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas is doing its best in reforming drug users.
Since 2016, the DOH 7 has recorded 24,571 graduates of its community-based rehabilitation program.
Central Visayas ranks second to Calabarzon in terms of reforming drug surrenderers, according to DOH 7 medical officer Dino Caing. (WBS, JCT)