Leni meets with US execs on new role as drug czar

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    BY WENDELL VIGILIA and ASHZEL HACHERO

    VICE President Leni Robredo met yesterday with United States Embassy officials who gave their assessment of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and expressed support for the campaign which she now partly leads as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Council on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

    “Ipinahiwatig nila ang kanilang buong suporta at kooperasyon sa ating kampanya laban sa iligal na droga. At, bilang kaibigan ng Pilipinas, gagawin nila ang lahat para tayo ay magtagumpay sa laban na ito (They have expressed their support and cooperation to our campaign against illegal drugs. And as an ally of the Philippines, they will do everything to ensure our success in this fight),” Robredo said in a statement after the meeting.

    The US Embassy said the delegation was composed of officers from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, Drug Enforcement Agency, the Department of State and US Agency for International Development.

    The Philippines and the US have a long history of law enforcement cooperation.

    In an emailed statement, the US Embassy said the US agencies discussed “the current state of US-Philippines counter-narcotics cooperation” and “ongoing and potential US government funded programs to assist the Philippine government efforts in drug demand reduction.”

    Representatives of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the State Department also attended the meeting held at the Quezon City Reception House (Office of the Vice President).

    Robredo said the American officials discussed what help they can extend the country in the fighting the drug war, including the establishment of what they called a clear “baseline data about the drug situation in the country.”

    The Vice President said another topic discussed was possible amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and adjust it to better address the current drug situation in the country.

    They also discussed how to step up prevention, community-based drug rehabilitation and other programs to stamp out the illegal drugs problem.

    “Ngayong umaga, nakipagpulong tayo sa mga opisyal ng Embahada ng Estados Unidos. Naging komprehensibo ang ibinigay nilang briefing (This morning, I had a meeting with US Embassy officials. They gave a comprehensive briefing),” Robredo said.

    “Nagpapasalamat ako na naging agaran ang kanilang pakikipagkita sa akin matapos ang aking pagkakatalaga (I’m grateful that they immediately met with me after my appointment),” she said.

    Robredo said her office has long been coordinating with the US Embassy on her office’s different programs and projects.

    The Vice President last Monday met with the Austria-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as part of her plan to shift the government’s bloody war to adopting best practices to avoid collateral damage.

    Sen. Christopher Go said Robredo has to wait until the next Cabinet meeting in Malacañang to formally discuss her anti-illegal drugs strategy with President Duterte.

    Go said there is no scheduled meeting yet between the President and the Vice President.

    Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he fully supports the Robredo’s proposal for policemen to be fitted with body cameras while conducting anti-drug operations.

    “That’s a very good idea that they will have body cameras. If you got nothing to hide so what’s the problem with having body cameras if you’re not hiding anything at all,” Guevarra said in an ambush interview with reporters at the sidelines of the 83rd anniversary of the National Bureau of Investigation.

    Robredo has said body cameras are indispensable in the conduct of police operations as it serves as protection for law enforcers since some of them get charged without basis as well as to protect the integrity of anti-narcotics operations.

    Philippine National Police Officer-In-Charge Lt. General Archie Gamboa said the government has allocated P334 million for the procurement of body worn cameras.

    Gamboa said the PNP will not only procure body worn cameras but a sophisticated, reliable and secure system which will allow complete system management, real-time live streaming, data storage and backup, and overall connectivity and monitoring. – With Jocelyn Montemayor