President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration will fully support Vice President Leni Robredo after she accepted the offer to become co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Robredo’s acceptance of her appointment as ICAD co-chair no longer came as a surprise since she is “smarter” than her allies.
He added that it is a “good step forward” for Robredo to take on the challenge to lead the government’s efforts to fight illegal drugs.
“It’s always a good step forward for any public official who would want to help this country,” Panelo said in an interview with CNN Philippines, shortly after Robredo announced her decision to accept Duterte’s offer.
Based on Robredo’s appointment paper signed by Duterte on October 31, the Vice President is mandated to help ICAD co-chair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino, to oversee the implementation of all policies, laws, and issuances on the government’s anti-narcotics campaign.
Under the memorandum order, Duterte directed the PDEA, the Philippine National Police, the Dangerous Drugs Board, and all other law enforcement agencies to extend their “full assistance and cooperation” to Robredo in an effort to ensure the success of his administration’s fight against illegal drugs.
Panelo said Robredo is “welcome” to join the 43rd Cabinet meeting at Malacañan Palace on Wednesday afternoon to discuss her specific role as ICAD chair.
He said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea may send a formal invitation to Robredo for her participation in Duterte’s meeting with Cabinet members.
“If she has been appointed and she has accepted it, there is no need for an invitation. It goes without saying that you’re a member of the Cabinet. Then you are free to come to join us. But if she would want the invitation, well we can always give it to her,” he said.
“She has to talk with the President. It’s between the President and the appointee. The appointing power and the appointee should be talking [about her appointment as ICAD chair]. We will only speculate. Let us not go into that,” Panelo added.
Robredo, as co-chair of ICAD, will be given a “pro-active” role in Duterte’s drug war since “she will have a hand in crafting the policies and programs of the government, and at the same time, ensure the proper implementation of anti-illegal drug operations and advocacy initiatives”.
Panelo said Robredo can assume her new position, which is a Cabinet rank, by Thursday.
“All members of the Cabinet help each other. That goes without saying. Let us do her job. And we will be behind her,” he said.
“[She should talk to the President] so she would know exactly what she will do. [She can say] what she intends to do, to tell the President what she has in mind. And then the President can help her,” Panelo added.
Robredo to ‘learn all the job’ as ICAD co-chair
Panelo added that the Palace is convinced that Robredo would eventually learn “all the job” as one of the heads of ICAD, especially since she has “a lot of ideas” to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs.
“She will learn all the job. Lahat naman ‘yun (She will learn all that she needs to learn). Everyone learns,” Panelo told Palace reporters in a press conference.
“Let us not underestimate the capability of this Vice President. When she was criticizing, she appeared to have a lot of ideas in her mind because she said it’s not effective. Then let’s use other tactics that she must have, a lot of ideas in her mind,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Robredo accepted the challenge to lead the ICAD, despite concerns that the current administration would not let her succeed in handling the drug war.
Panelo assured Robredo that the government would not let her down, since “her success is our success”.
“Her success is our success and her failure would be our failure. I don’t think we would want that,” he said.
“We will give all the support. Being a member of the Cabinet, it behooves upon all of us to help each other because her success is the success of all the Cabinet, as well as this administration, and ultimately, the Filipino people,” Panelo added.
No PRRD intervention unless asked
As ICAD co-chair, Robredo will effectively become the “boss” of the law enforcement agencies tasked to curb the illegal drug problem.
Panelo guaranteed that Robredo will have access to documents that include matters concerning the campaign against illegal drugs.
He said the President would not intervene unless the Vice President would seek help.
“Kaya nga ginawang drug czar si VP Leni (That’s why VP Leni was appointed as drug czar). Eh (So) ‘di siya ang on top of the situation. Of course, she will be reporting to the President. The President will be listening to her. She will be asking advice from the President kung okay ang ginagawa niya (if she is doing the right thing),” the Palace official said.
“Aba’y kung hinihingi ang tulong ni Presidente, bakit naman hindi siya tutulungan (If she asks the President’s help, why would she not get help)? Meanwhile, we will let her lead that agency,” he added.
He added that the VP was expected to give “improved and better ideas” in the government’s resolve to stop the illegal drug trade.
Despite the acceptance of offer, Robredo clarified that she would not be stopped from voicing concerns over possible actions that may be opposed to her stance.
Panelo, however, hopes Robredo would not criticize the drug war now that she is designated as ICAD chair.
“She said that she is against killings, she is against whatever. If she is now the drug czar, then she can do what she wants. It will be her method of stopping, eliminating the illegal drug menace in this country. And she will have the support of the entire members of the Cabinet, as well as the agencies under her,” he said.
“I don’t think she will be criticizing because she will be on top of the situation. She will be there. How could she be criticizing herself?” he added.
Turning criticisms into constructive inputs
In a separate statement, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar lauded Robredo for accepting her new role, which is a “genuine opportunity to turn criticisms into constructive inputs in the campaign against illegal drugs”.
He said Robredo’s latest move would help in addressing the “serious” problem of drug proliferation in the country which requires actions “without hesitation and delay”.
“We believe that the loudest critics should act beyond mere observers, but be active contributors for change,” Andanar said.
“We look forward to the fresh perspective that VP Robredo will bring in addressing the illegal drug problem in the Philippines much faster, instead of just criticizing without concrete actions,” he added.
Under the memorandum, Robredo will serve as ICAD co-chair until June 30, 2022.
Andanar is optimistic that Robredo would share ideas that would contribute to the success of the anti-illegal drug campaign before the President steps down from office in 2022.
The PCOO, he said, would cooperate in the communications campaigns of the ICAD.
“With the perceived graveness of the drug situation in the Philippines, immediate actions must be taken in response to the matter. We welcome the inputs and contributions of Vice President Leni Robredo, who has been very vocal about the Duterte administration’s war on illegal drugs, and look forward to the results she can produce,” Andanar said.
“In these times, we should focus on our common goal of ridding the scourge of drugs from our local communities. Let us work together in giving the Filipinos the safe and comfortable life that they deserve,” he added. (PNA)