Leni gets drug czar appointment

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    MAKING true his offer to make her his administration’s anti-drug czar, President Duterte has formally designated Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), the government body tasked to oversee the implementation of its campaign against prohibited drugs.

    Robredo’s designation was made formal in a memorandum dated October 31, which was signed by Duterte and addressed to the Vice President.

    The memorandum states that Robredo has been designated as the co-chairperson of the ICAD to “lead the government’s efforts against illegal drugs until 30 June 2022, unless sooner revoked.”

    The memorandum also directed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police (PNP), Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), and all other law enforcement agencies to extend their full assistance and cooperation to the Vice President to ensure the success of the government’s war against illegal drugs.

    The written memorandum was transmitted to the Office of the Vice President by the Office of the Executive Secretary.

    The ICAD, composed of 21 government entities, was created through Executive Order No. 15. It was formed to “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 PDEA chief, in this case Aaron Aquino, chairs the ICAD. The other member agencies includes the Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Health, Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, Department of National Defense, Dangerous Drugs Board, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Philippine Information Agency, Public Attorney’s Office, Office of the Solicitor General, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Immigration, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Anti-Money Laundering Council.

    It is divided into four clusters: Environment, Justice, Advocacy, and Rehabilitation and Reintegration, which shall carry out anti-drug operations, prosecute drug cases, conduct a nationwide advocacy campaign, and implement drug rehabilitation programs.

    ‘READY TO WORK WITH LENI’

    A day after saying that Robredo is doomed to fail if she is named illegal drugs czar, PDEA chief Aaron Aquino welcomed her designation as his co-chair of the ICAD.

    “PDEA welcomes the designation of Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of ICAD. PDEA believes that she can well contribute on the advocacy and rehabilitation, reintegration clusters,” Aquino said.

    “It’s up to her, it’s her decision to accept it or not, but again, PDEA welcomes the designation,” he said, adding: “Tomorrow, we will have a meeting of the members (of the committee) and I just hope within the day she will have a decision. If she accepts it, tomorrow she may join the meeting.”

    Aquino said Robredo is a “good leader on this matter particularly in rehabilitation matter,” acknowledging at the same time that “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 Vice President to accept that kind of designation and hopefully we can move on and help the government in the war on drugs.” PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said: “The PNP will comply with, and abide by the order of the President.”

    “The PNP will extend its utmost courtesy, cooperation and full assistance to the Vice President,” Banac added.

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also welcomed Robredo’s appointment and said she will be able to contribute insights to improve the government’s campaign against the illegal drugs trade.

    “The DOJ is an active member of the ICAD and is the lead agency in the committee’s justice cluster. We welcome the inclusion of the Vice President and hopes that she will inject fresh and constructive insights into the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign,” Guevarra said.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III said now that Robredo has been formally appointed, she can now realize the intensity of the country’s drug problems.

    “Good, so the VP can see for herself why the war on drugs cannot be stopped. You would only want the war versus drugs stopped if you are sympathetic to the drug dealers or at least, users. Deliver or not, the point is for her and her advisers to realize that the war on drugs cannot be stopped,” Sotto said.

    He also had an unsolicited advice to Robredo to win the war against drugs: study the root cause of the drug problems.

    ‘ORDER ALL DRUGS LORDS KILLED’

    Sen. Christopher Go dared Robredo to accept the President’s offer.

    “I challenge VP Leni to accept the job. Malay mo ma’am kaya mo ‘yan at nang makita mo kung ano ang trabaho ng isang presidente. Subukan mo up to the last day of your term and term din ni Presidente to June 30, 2022. Tignan natin kung makakatulog ka pa (I challenge VP Leni to accept the job. Who knows, ma’am, you can do it. This will make you realize what the job of a president is. Just give it a try up to the last day of your and the President’s term on June 30, 2022. Let’s see if you can still get enough sleep),” Go said.

    Go said while at it, Robredo can order that all drug lords in the country be killed and when her term of office expires, he will be the one to question her campaign against drugs.

    “Pagdating ng July 1, hindi ka nagsucceed, at hindi mo napatay ang drug lords, ako naman ang magtatanong sayo, ma’m bakit di mo pinatay ang mga drug lord.

    (When July 1, 2022 comes and if you did not succeed in killing all the drug lords, I will be the one who will ask you then, ‘Ma’am, why did you not kill the drug lords’),” he said.

    Go said the administration cannot force Robredo to accept the offer if she declines.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said the formal designation of Robredo is proof of Duterte’s sincerity when he offered the Cabinet post to the Vice President.

    He said if Robredo accepts the position, she can again join the Cabinet which will have a meeting on Thursday. Go, however, said the Cabinet meeting may take place on Wednesday.

    Robredo used to be part of the Duterte Cabinet overseeing the government housing projects but later resigned due to differences with the administration.

    Panelo said that if Robredo declines the position, this will indicate that her criticisms against the government’s drug war and her claim that the campaign is ineffective is not true.

    Panelo said Robredo and the political opposition should take into account that the administration had given in to almost all of their demands like, that the position be granted to the Vice President through an official correspondence and not just through a verbal or electronic communication; for her designation to be extended to until the end of Dutete’s term in 2022, instead of just six months; and for her to have authority over law and drug enforcement agencies like the PDEA, the PNP and the DDB.

    “Members of the political opposition have been issuing demands relative to the President’s offer to the Vice President to head the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, alleging that the same is a ruse manufactured by this administration to discredit the latter.

    With this development, the Palace supposes that detractors and critics will finally see the sincerity of the President in making such offer to the Vice President,” Panelo said.

    Panelo urged the public to give Robredo a chance to do her job, acknowledging the concerns of some sectors including Aquino who said on Monday that the Vice President will face difficulties when she is named anti-drugs czar.

    He said Aquino’s statement may be based on his own experience at handling the campaign.

    Duterte, during his campaign for the presidency in the 2016 elections, had promised to finish the illegal drug problem within six months from his assumption of office.

    The President later on said that he will not be able to realize this promise and had initially extended his self-imposed deadline, which he later again amended and promised to just reduce the drug problem – if he cannot completely eradicate it – within the remainder of his term.

    He said he based his six-month target on how he was able to successfully handle the drug problem in Davao City.

    In March this year, Duterte said that the last three years of his term will be the most dangerous time for those who are involved in the drug trade.

    He had also acknowledged that the drug problem had worsened in the country, noting that illegal drugs remain to be the “biggest threat” and problem not just of the country but also the world. – With Victor Reyes and Raymond Africa