Vice President Leni Robredo allegedly used her appointment as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs (ICAD) to “grandstand” instead of taking the opportunity to present concrete plans in defeating the menace.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo on Monday narrated that this was what President Rodrigo Duterte, who fired Robredo as ICAD co-chair on Sunday night, told him.
Panelo stressed that since her appointment as ICAD co-chairman last 6 November, Robredo did not bother to see the President to present plans to help fight illegal drugs.
“Let me quote the President. The President said last night to me, ‘She was just grandstanding.’ She could’ve just come to Malacañang. Everybody goes to Malacañang,” Panelo said during a broadcast interview.
He shared that the Vice President “had it coming” due to the missteps she committed after talking to foreign entities.
Robredo’s and her allies’ “dare” for the President to strip her of the position also contributed to Mr. Duterte’s action.
“This (Robredo’s sacking) is in response to the suggestion of Liberal Party president Sen. Francis Pangilinan to just fire the Vice President from her post. This is also in response to the taunt and dare of VP Robredo for the President to just tell her that he wants her out,” Panelo said.
It will be recalled that barely days after she accepted Mr. Duterte’s appointment, Robredo immediately sought a meeting with the United Nations and the United States, both of which have previously criticized the Duterte administration’s all-out campaign against illegal drugs.
Robredo also inquired about the list of high-value targets in the government’s war against illegal drugs.
VP blew it
“It’s not surprising. She was given the opportunity to assist in the program but she blew it,” Panelo pointed out.
He said that instead of “grandstanding” and talking with foreigners, Robredo should have approached the masses to have a clearer and deeper grasp of the menace.
“If VP Robredo is really serious in addressing the cause of the drug problem, she should have gone down to the grassroots — talking to the victims, to their families and to the communities,” Panelo explained.
“Instead, she opted to have an audience with the UN and the US Embassy officials who remain out-of-touch from the realities of the local drug problem on the ground,” he added.
The Palace official stressed that Mr. Duterte gave Robredo 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 to address the menace.
“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,” Panelo said.
The President, he said, 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 co-chairperson. But she has not presented any new program that she envisioned to implement. In a campaign where people’s lives are at risk, a day is an eternity. The government cannot twiddle its thumb and sit idly hoping for a flash of brilliance from the Vice President,” Panelo stressed.
“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,” he added.
War vs drugs unaffected
The exit of Robredo from ICAD will not hamper the Philippine National Police (PNP) from carrying out the government’s campaign against narcotics, its spokesman said on Monday.
PNP spokesman PBrig. Gen. Bernard Banac said the organization respects the decision of the Chief Executive and has vowed to carry out its mandate to rid society of illegal drugs.
“This will not affect our campaign against illegal drugs, especially in going after the high-value targets,” Banac said at Camp Crame.
“We assure the public that we will be relentless in our pursuit of these high-value targets and in conducting our operations within the bounds of the law and with utmost respect to human rights,” he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III believed that Robredo has lost her position as ICAD co-chair after losing the trust of the President.
“The appointment of the Vice President as ICAD co-chair is based on trust. Once trust is lost, the position is lost,” Sotto said.
He explained that Mr. Duterte felt that Robredo’s job description was not followed by the Vice President during her stint.
“He wanted her to see the extent of the drug problem up close. I’m sure he trusted her then but when he probably felt the job description was not being followed, he had a different opinion. It’s like basketball — the coach has the prerogative on who to put in and who to pull out,” Sotto said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that the President’s decision was no longer surprising and suggested that drug lords are the ones laughing as the anti-illegal drugs operations were now distracted.
“Not shocking, not surprising, not unexpected. Boring actually. The more exciting question is, between PRRD (Mr. Duterte’s initials) and VP Robredo, guess who’s laughing now?” Lacson said.
On the other hand, Pangilinan and fellow opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros claimed that the firing of Robredo was just a diversionary tactic on the current issues hounding the government related to the Philippines’ hosting of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
“The appointment and the eventual firing of VP Leni as anti-drug co-chair prove what we have been saying all along: Both the war on drugs and the appointment of the Vice President as ICAD co-chair are bluff and bluster,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
Panelo lashed at Pangilinan, saying “Senator Pangilinan cannot accept the fact that he was one of the two, including VP Leni, who dared the President to fire VP Leni.”
For her part, Hontiveros said, “No doubt, it showed that the government is not sincere in its offer to Vice President Robredo in helping the campaign against illegal drugs.”
“The government is not sincere to study other alternative ways to bust illegal drugs. They are not prepared for Vice President Robredo. They are afraid,” she added.
With Kristina Maralit and Hananeel Bordey