Leni: Thanks, but no thanks

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    STILL doubting the sincerity of the offer, Vice President Leni Robredo does not seem inclined to accept President Duterte’s offer for her to co-chair the inter-agency body that oversees the government’s war against illegal drugs.

    Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, spokesman of Robredo, said the Vice President cannot entertain Duterte’s appointment as of now because the position of co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) does not legally exist.

    “It’s hard to answer,” Gutierrez told a press conference when asked if the Vice President will accept the position. “It’s a question of whether is it serious or is it just theater? As of moment, we think that it’s not even a serious offer.”

    Gutierrez, a former Akbayan party-list congressman, said Executive Order No. 15 creating the ICAD does not provide for the position of a co-chairman.

    “Look at the ICAD if there’s such a position as co-chair, if there’s no such position, then that is the legal fact,” he said. “Look at the EO itself, it seems that the position to which she (Robredo) is being designated does not even exist,” Gutierrez said.

    Taking a hit at the Palace staff who prepared the memorandum that contained Robredo’s appointment, Gutierrez said that before preparing a legal document appointing someone to a position, “you have to be sure that everything is right.”

    The former congressman said the powers and responsibilities of an ICAD co-chair, if it exists, are not even specified in the EO.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo, reacting to Gutierrez’ statement, said: “(There is) no need to amend EO 15. The President has the continuing authority to reorganize the bureaucracy. Gutierrez is wrong.”

    He said the President is obviously just trying to pass the buck to the Vice President after he failed to make good on his vow to stamp out the illegal drugs trade in three to six months.

    “We were not the one who promised to fix this problem in six months and now, in just a day, they expect us to do it? I think Malacañang’s focus is wrong,” he also said.

    If the President was serious, Gutierrez said he should have at least sat down with Robredo to formally offer her the position.

    Gutierrez said Robredo is being targeted for raising criticisms on how the war on drugs is being waged.

    Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a member of the opposition, said the President is obviously setting up Robredo to fail.

    “A co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) is vastly different from an anti-drug czar which was previously ‘offered’ by President Duterte to Vice President Leni Robredo. The diluted position validates the fear that the Vice President is being set up to fail,” Lagman said in a statement.

    Lagman said no less than Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino, the chair of ICAD, has “ominously predicted that Robredo would fail.”

    He said the Vice President is being thrown into a composite of an inter-agency committee with no less than 20 agencies as members pursuant to EO 15 which created the ICAD on March 6, 2017.

    “As co-chair of ICAD, the Vice President, before she could act, will have to contend with the chair and the multiple membership of ICAD,” Lagman said.

    Gutierrez said the Vice President, in her present capacity, will write the President to make specific recommendations to help the administration “address the failings of the current campaign.”

    “Leni, she wasn’t the one who already had three years as President. She wasn’t the one who vowed to fix everything in six months and despite all that, she is always ready to help.

    From the start, it has always been her intention. She’ll present to the President specific steps to be taken,” he said.