President Rodrigo R. Duterte has put into writing his offer to Vice President Leni Robredo to help his administration’s aggressive crackdown against the illegal drug trade.
In a memorandum dated October 31 and released on Tuesday, Duterte designated Robredo as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) until the end of his term on June 30, 2022.
The designation of Robredo was made following demands by critics and detractors that enforcement power should be given to Robredo “through an official correspondence, and not just through a verbal or electronic communication.”
In an interview, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Robredo could start attending the scheduled Cabinet meeting this week if she accepts the position.
Panelo said as ICAD co-chair, Robredo will have authority over all drug enforcement agencies and offices, such as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
“The President has directed these instrumentalities to render full assistance and cooperation to her through this official document,” he said.
Panelo, meanwhile, expressed hope that critics and detractors would finally see the President’s sincerity in making the offer to the Vice President.
He denied their claims that the President’s offer was a ruse manufactured by the administration to discredit Robredo.
Panelo noted that the President’s ultimate motivation is the hope that the government be successful in combating the drug menace.
“Ang tagumpay niya, tanggumpay ng taong-bayan, tagumpay nating lahat (Her success is the success of the whole nation, the success of all of us). That’s why we wish her well,” he said.
“Gawin na niya ang gusto niyang gawin (She is free to do whatever she wants),” he added.
However, Panelo said it was “too much” for the opposition to ask Robredo to select the next PNP chief.
“Masyado silang maraming hinihingi (They have so many demands). You’re given an inch, you try to grab a mile. Kalokohan ‘yun (That’s nonsense),” he said in an interview with reporters.
He said that if the VP declines the offer, it would mean that her claim of a failed drug war is untrue.
In a text message to reporters, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said as ICAD co-chair, Robredo will have a “pro-active” role in the government’s war against illegal drugs.
“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,” Medialdea said.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino welcomed Robredo’s designation as ICAD co-chair, pledging his 100-percent support.
He also expressed confidence that she would contribute to the advocacy, particularly in rehabilitation.
Aquino acknowledged that the rehabilitation cluster of the drug war has not been “properly managed” and that there could be “a better approach.”
“That’s what the PDEA wants, a whole nation approach. Holistically, all government agencies collaborate and participate for the solution of the problem and that’s why I was telling a while ago that the VP would well contribute (to) the advocacy program. She is a good leader on this matter, particularly in rehabilitation matter,” Aquino said in an interview over ANC.
He said that instead of calling the drug war as a failure, Robredo can help the campaign, noting the importance of everyone “working together.”
“There’s a lot of criticisms that have been made. I just hope that we’ll work together and in fact, it’s nice for the VP to accept that kind of designation and hopefully, we can move on and help the government in the war on drugs,” Aquino said.
PNP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, meanwhile, said the PNP would comply with and abide by Duterte’s orders.
“The PNP will extend its utmost courtesy, cooperation and full assistance to the Vice President,” Banac said.
Last October 28, Duterte offered to give Robredo six months to take over the crackdown on illegal drugs after the latter described the drug war as a failure.
Panelo said accepting the role as drug czar could give Robredo a chance to “show her mettle” and prove that she could do better in addressing the drug problem.
However, Robredo questioned the seriousness of the President’s offer, saying that giving her law enforcement powers is an admission of a failed drug war.
In 2017, Duterte signed Executive Order 15, creating the ICAD to suppress the drug problem in the country, and ensure the effective conduct of anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of high-value drug personalities down to the street-level peddlers and users.
The ICAD is chaired by the PDEA chief and has representatives from the following agencies as members: DDB; PNP; departments of interior and local government, justice, health, education, social welfare, trade, agriculture, and national defense; Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Philippine Information Agency, Public Attorney’s Office, Office of the Solicitor General, Philippine Coast Guard, National Bureau of Investigation, bureaus of customs and immigration, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council. (CLC/PNA)