VICE President Leni Robredo yesterday said all that President Duterte needs to do if he wants her out of his administration’s war on illegal drugs is to have the courage to say it right to her face.
“E dapat diretsuhin na lang ako. Diretso naman akong kausap. Kung ayaw niya ako dito, in the first place, bakit ako in-appoint? (He should just say it. I’m a straight shooter. If he doesn’t want me in the first place, why was I appointed?),” Robredo told reporters.
The Vice President made the statement after meeting with officials of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) at the DDB-PDEA Building in Quezon City on Wednesday as part of her bid to harmonize the efforts of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
“Kung ayaw niya na, kung nagkamali siya sa pag-appoint sa akin at gusto niyang bawiin, sabihin lang. Kasi ako, madali akong kausap. Pero habang mayroong ine-expect sa akin na trabaho, gagawin ko iyon (If he doesn’t want me anymore, if he feels he had erred in appointing me and he wants to withdraw it, just tell me. I’m easy to talk to. But while I’m still being expected to perform a job, I’ll continue to do it),” Robredo said.
The President on Tuesday night said he did not give Robredo a Cabinet post because he does not trust her.
In a late night press conference on Tuesday, the President did not hide his displeasure at Robredo’s meetings with foreign organizations like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The Vice President said she remains upbeat despite the President’s statement, saying her experience with ICAD members has been good because the agencies have been cooperative.
“Iyong experience ko kasi sa ICAD, majority naman ng agencies very cooperative. Ang term nga nila, na-re-energize sila (My experience in ICAD, majority of the agencies are very cooperative. They even used the term re-energized),” Robredo said.
Robredo said she does not mind that she is being given a hard time to perform her functions because “it’s always worth working for something we believe in.”
“Sa akin, naniniwala ako na marami akong mako-contribute sa kampanya laban sa iligal na droga (For me, I believe I can contribute a lot in the campaign against illegal drugs),” she said.
Robredo revealed that PDEA chief Aaron Aquino, her ICAD co-chair, offered to show her classified information about the drug war but she refused to read the documents pending the President’s decision.
Before the meeting with the DDB, she said Aquino requested her to come earlier for a short meeting where he offered to brief the Vice President “on some classified matters.”
The Vice President, however, refused, saying it is best for her to wait for the President’s decision on her request to be granted access to the drug war’s high-value targets and for him to clarify her functions as ICAD co-chair.
“I refused, kasi sabi ko hihintayin ko muna iyong sagot ni Presidente doon sa aking clarification kung ano ba talaga iyong limits ng aking mandato. Kasi iyong ayaw ko, ma-accuse ako na lumalampas ako sa mandato (I refused because I wanted to wait for the President to answer to my clarification as to what the limits of my mandate are so I won’t be accused of stepping outside my boundaries),” Robredo said.
“So sinabi ko kay Director General Aquino, hindi ko muna titingnan. May briefing sana kanina, binibigyan sana ako ng folders ng classified matters (So I told Director General Aquino that I won’t look at it. There was supposed to be a briefing earlier and I was being given folders on classified matters),” she added.
The Vice President also belied the President’s claims that she has reached out to International Criminal Court prosecutors because of the thousands of deaths caused by the drug war.
“Fake news ‘yun. Sana si Presidente hindi naniniwala sa fake news. Madali naman itong i-check (That’s fake news. I hope the President does not believe in fake news. It’s actually easy to check),” she said.
The Vice President said she does not know a single UN prosecutor and she did not invite anyone to look into the killings.
She said she has only reached out to officials of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the United States Embassy in Manila to discuss the cooperation between the two countries in the fight against illegal drugs.
PRELUDE TO VP’S EXIT?
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it can be clearly read that Duterte wants Robredo out as anti-drug czar after the Chief Executive said he could not trust her.
“Obviously, the President wants her out without firing her, meaning he is leaving it up to her to take the initiative and tender her resignation. I’m sure the Vice President is now processing how to deal with the situation and should make her decision sooner than later. I think her position has become untenable,” Lacson said.
Lacson said the way Duterte expressed his thoughts on Robredo clearly showed he now wants her to take the exit door.
“Responsibility without commensurate authority is a guaranteed formula for failure. If the chief executive who is also the CIC (commander-in-chief) of all armed forces in the country has openly declared that he doesn’t trust her, what does she expect from all 20 member-agencies under the ICAD?” Lacson added.
Former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III on Wednesday questioned why Duterte appointed Robredo when he didn’t trust her.
Aquino said leaders “normally” appoint officials whom they trust can do the jobs entrusted to them.
“Inappoint mo tapos wala ka palang tiwala e parang magulo ata ‘yun. Normally kapag inaappoint mo pinagkakatiwalaan mo (You appointed her and then say that you don’t trust her? That’s confusing. You normally appoint someone whom you trust),” Aquino told reporters.
Liberal Party vice president for external affairs Erin Tañada said the President’s statement was a glaring proof that he and his allies do not want Robredo to succeed in her assignment as drug czar.
“Gusto ng pamahalaang ito na pahirapan si VP Leni upang mabigo ang kanyang kampanya kontra iligal na droga. Naghahanap ang Malacañang ng palusot sa palpak na giyera ni Pangulong Duterte kontra droga at gusto nilang si VP Leni ang pagbuntunan ng sisi (This government wants VP Leni to fail in her campaign against illegal drugs. Malacañag is looking for an escape goat for its failed war against drugs and they want VP Leni to take the blame),” Tañada said in a statement.
“Ngunit nagkakamali sila dahil determinado si VP Leni na gampanan ang kanyang tungkulin sa kabila ng pagpapahirap at pagmamatigas ng pamahalaan.
Sa huli, kabutihan pa rin ang mananaig laban sa kasamaan. (But they are mistaken if they think they can discourage her. VP Leni is determined to make her campaign successful despite the difficulties that she is experiencing. In the end, the good will still triumph over evil),” he added.
Duterte said in his late Tuesday night presser that he was retaining “scattered brain” Robredo as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) but said she will have limited access to classified and highly confidential information.
The President said he fears that Robredo and the political opposition could twist the confidential data and use these to benefit them in the presidential elections in 2022.
“Need to know lang siya. If she asks something, then you give her… you give her half of it.
The other half, if it’s a classified information, there is no need for her to know,” he said.
The President also said she cannot give the Vice President, whom he chided has a “penchant for knee jerk reactions,” a Cabinet position because as an opposition leader, it will grant her access to sensitive information, discussions and even state secrets that are discussed in the Cabinet.
Asked why he will keep her at ICAD if he does not trust her, Duterte said: “I am not keeping her. She is there. I appointed her”.
“She is working. As a matter of fact, she’s been issuing statements every day… I am just saying the parameters. But she is there. I do not have to fire her. She is there. She is working,” he said.
The President said as ICAD co-chairman, the Vice President can direct, give directions, and give guidance without having to “waggle inside the law enforcement process”.
Duterte said Robredo should have already understood that her role was just to “give direction and guidance and to instruct law enforcement agencies to make the fight against illegal drugs more transparent to the public.”
Robredo was designated co-chairwoman of ICAD last October 31 and the Vice President accepted the position on November 6.
Malacañang has repeatedly said the Robredo’s ICAD position is not a Cabinet-ranked post.
The President said he has decided against making Robredo a part of the Cabinet because her presence “I think will jeopardize the whole situation including records, classified which are secrets…. state secrets that includes everything from sensitive matters with our relations with China then with the United States and what happened to the equipment that we bought,” among others.
Duterte said he was displeased with Robredo’s recent actions after she accepted her appointment, among them her meeting with members of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, with European leaders, with US officials and other human groups that he claimed had supposedly prejudged the war on drugs of the administration as a violation of human rights and a crime against humanity.
He said Robredo’s actions were “not inspiring” and he feared that what information she gets and she learns from the administration will be twisted and used for politics especially in the forthcoming elections.
“Kung anong mapulot mo dito, balang araw, two years na lang, and she wants to aspire for the presidency, if that is the way her mouth behaves, that is the way – scatterbrain eh – I will talk to this, I will talk to this (What you can get here, some day, it’s just two years, and she wants to aspire for the presidency, if that is the way her mouth behaves, that is the way – she’s a scatterbrain – I will talk to this, I will talk to this),” he said.
The President added that with so many “fishermen” in the Senate, especially those coming from the opposition party, you would never know how they would use the information that they would hear or catch” coming out from Robredo’s mouth.
“To my mind, in my own estimation, it’s not good for the country (to make her a Cabinet member). Well, I don’t care. She tinkers with classified matters, secrets, its up to you… what should I do if those matters are leaked or if it is a good issue in politics? ‘Because he ordered the killing or he ordered this and someone died.’ And then they would develop a story and they would twist it. Then you come up with some accusation,” he said. – With Raymond Africa and Jocelyn Montemayor