CRITICS and allies of Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday gave the thumbs up to her decision to take up the challenge to be anti-illegal drugs czar and lead the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino, the Vice President’s co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, welcomed the decision and committed full support to Robredo.
Aquino said he was presiding a meeting of the ICAD when he learned that Robredo has accepted President Duterte’s offer.
“Everyone is happy. I told them that let us expect that within the week or maybe early next week, the Vice President will call me and maybe do some briefings on the drug situation in the Philippines and accomplishment of ICAD for the past years. I’ll just wait for the call of the Vice President,” Aquino said.
“I’ve been saying we hope she’ll accept it and let us work together so we can finish this problem (on illegal drugs),” he also said, adding: “I told ICAD members, let us give our full support to our Vice President so we’ll be successful in what we’re going to do.”
“The campaign against illegal drugs is far from over. The help of Vice President Robredo is very much appreciated especially in terms of harm and demand reduction efforts,” said Aquino.
Aquino said he has instructed the ICAD secretariat “to prepare a briefing on ICAD accomplishments and way forward to be presented to the Vice President.”
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said: “The PNP welcomes the acceptance of the Vice President of the position as co-chair of ICAD and oversee the campaign against illegal drugs.”
“The PNP commits to support her, give her the full cooperation so we’ll be successful in our campaign against illegal drugs and achieve a drug-free Philippines by 2022. As a member of ICAD, the PNP will extend to her utmost courtesy, cooperation and full support towards the attainment of a drug free Philippines by 2022,” Banac said.
Dangerous Drugs Board chairman Catalino Cuy said: “We are ready to extend full assistance and support to the Vice President as co-chair ng of ICAD. We are willing to render full assistance and support in this (anti-drugs) activity. That is our mandate in the DDB.”
“We do not consider political color. Let’s forget political color,” said Cuy, adding they are open to suggestions from Robredo on existing policies and programs to improve the campaign against illegal drugs,” Cuy also said.
The PDEA, PNP and DDB are all members of the ICAD, an inter-agency committee formed in 2017 through Executive Order No. 15.
Administration and opposition senators welcomed Robredo’s decision.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III offered to share tips to Robredo on how to solve the worsening drug problem of the country.
“We’ll probably have to sit down, we’ll probably prepare a proposal if she is interested. I am sure she will let me know if she is interested or not. If she’s not interested, let us just watch her work,” Sotto said.
Sotto said Robredo can concentrate on more pressing concerns in the war on drugs such as prevention and rehabilitation.
“Enforcement is a different story all along. I don’t think she will be effective there. She will be very effective in prevention and rehabilitation. As a matter of fact, she may even be effective also as prosecution, for prosecution concerns because it might be better if the inter-agency chairpersons are monitoring the cases filed,” he added.
Sotto, who was head of the Quezon City Anti-Drug Abuse Council when he was still vice mayor, said he shared his tips to President Duterte from 1988 to 1992 when the latter was still mayor of Davao City.
He said he sees no politics behind the offer to Robredo and saw nothing illegal with Robredo’s appointment even if there is no co-chair position in the ICAD since it is embodied in the Constitution that the President has the power to create such a position.
“Ang gusto ng VP ay makatulong, ito ang pinakamagandang paraan para makatulong. At ito, hindi ito success ng administrasyon ni President Duterte, success ito ng buong bansa or ng taong bayan,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Robredo may not have the experience but he believes she will succeed due to her “sincerity and mental honesty.”
“We should give her all our support she needs to contribute her share in battling this pestering problem of illegal drugs that destroy lives, families, and the youth. I am ready and willing to humbly share whatever modest law enforcement experience I gained in my previous life,” said Lacson, who was former PNP chief.
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, the PNP chief who started the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs, said he was glad Robredo took the offer since the drug problem is not just President Duterte’s problem but of the whole nation.
“We will be victorious on this war as a nation, undivided by political colors. That is very good. I’m so happy,” Dela Rosa said.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said they have full confidence that Robredo can carry out the new task given her.
“Being the leader of the opposition, Vice President Robredo will continue to fiscalize. But in instances such as this, when she is called upon to do her share, she will not shirk from his challenge,” Drilon said.
Drilon called on the Filipino people to rally behind Robredo.
Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte said Robredo’s “sincerity (to save the lives) overcame her own doubts.”
“VP Leni does not play high politics with the lives of our people,” said the lawmaker, secretary general of the Liberal Party. “We approach this development with cautious optimism and with great pride in the courage and sincerity of our party chairperson.”
Belmonte also shared that Robredo’s decision did not surprise party members anymore because “she will never shirk from any responsibility to do what she can to make our people’s lives better.”
Marikina City Rep. Stella Quimbo, also an LP member, said it would be best if the Vice President is allowed to choose her subordinates.
“I hope she can choose her own people and even the heads of important agencies,” said the congresswoman, wife of former Rep. Miro Quimbo who served as the LP’s spokesman.
Sen. Christopher welcomed the decision. “Ma’am Leni, handa na kami. We want you to succeed, kailangan natin patayin ang mga drug lord, tutulungan ka namin, basta i-save natin ang mga inosente (Ma’am Leni, we are ready. We want you to succeed. We need to kill the drug lords. We will help you as long as we save the innocent),” he said.
Go urged Robredo to be tough in battling illegal drugs otherwise her efforts will go to waste.
“Sa tingin ko parang gusto yata niya i-baby ang mga lord drugs, gusto niya padamihin.
Kung takot ka patayin eh dadami yan. Ilang presidente na ang dumaan, nabawasan ba ang drug lord? Nabawasan ba ang biktima ng droga? Lalong dumami. Ngayon lang po ito nabawasan sa panahon ni President Duterte. Figures will show that 82% of the Filipinos are satisfied (I think she wants to go soft on the drug lords, she wants drug lords to multiply. If she is afraid of having them killed, drug lords will surely multiply. Many presidents have passed. Did the number of drug lords decrease? Did the number of victims decrease? I think it has even ballooned. It is only during the time of President Duterte that we saw a decline in the number of drug lords. Figures will show that 82 percent of the Filipinos are satisfied),” Go said.
CBCP – National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice, and Peace (NASSA) Executive Secretary Fr Edwin Gariguez said the CBCP is prepared to provide help to Robredo, especially since they believe in her approach in handling the war against illegal drugs.
“I think the Vice President accepted the post because she has good intentions in trying a different approach, one that is humane… Let’s give it a try,” Gariguez said, adding: “Her approach is the same as the Church’s. We don’t believe in killing drug users.”
In contrast to the present strategy, the priest said they also want the drug war to be more focused on “curing” drug addicts and users.
“On rehabilitation programs for drug users, on that aspect, we have a common approach with the Vice President,” he said. – With Raymond Africa, Jocelyn Montemayor and Gerard Naval