POLICE officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa yesterday said there is no need for Vice President Leni Robredo to join anti-drug operations in her capacity as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
“As a matter of fact, we, generals, do not join illegal drugs operations probably because during our younger days, we were exposed to this,” Gamboa told a press briefing in Camp Crame.
Gamboa said the ICAD co-chair post “encompasses a lot of things.”
“I hope she will not only concentrate on law enforcement because as presented, more focus should be given to advocacy and rehabilitation (of drug offenders),” Gamboa said.
PNP Drug Enforcement Group deputy chief for operations Lt. Col. Alex Dela Cerna echoed there is no need for the Vice President to join actual anti-narcotics operations.
“The nature of the position of Vice President Leni Robredo is policy-maker, as chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs,” Dela Cerna said.
Gamboa said the PNP welcomes Robredo’s intention to better understand the country’s problem on illegal drugs “and we are also very willing to update her or educate her on the law enforcement side.”
On the PNP adjusting its war on drugs with Robredo getting a role in the campaign, Gamboa said: “Any government approach has to be dynamic because time changes.”
“Personally, I would like to open up options because we have a drug war which I think is very successful. But if there is a need to re-calibrate and maybe touch a few points, study it, then the PNP is open to it,” he said.
Robredo has called for an end on killings in relation to the war on drugs. She has also called for a stop on “Oplan Tokhang.”
Her co-chair at ICAD, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino said killings cannot be avoided because drug syndicate members fight it out with anti-narcotics agents.
Robredo’s remarks have prompted Aquino to invite her to join anti-drug operations so she would under the situation on the ground. Aquino assured the safety of Robredo if she decides to join the operations.
Aquino has also opposed Robredo’s call for an end of Oplan Tokhang, which he said is a strategy that merely entices drug offenders to surrender so they can be rehabilitated. He said the scheme does not call for the killing of drug users, contrary to the belief of critical quarters.
Oplan: All Talk?
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said gave Robredo a mouthful for incessantly criticizing the administration for the excesses of its war on drugs.
Cayetano, who was President Duterte’s running mate in the 2016 national elections, said Robredo did not only start on the wrong foot but also on the “wrong mouth.”
“I’ve been monitoring for the last three days and it seems that from ‘Operation Tokhang,’ it
became ‘Operation All-Talk,’” he told CNN in an interview.
“I think the point of all of that is to say, ‘ma’am, please do not comment until you have really seen the situation on the ground,” he added.
Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez shot back at Cayetano, saying he should be the one to keep his mouth shut if he cannot contribute anything to the Vice President’s tasks.
“Nagsisimula pa lang si VP sa trabahong ipinasa sa kanya ng Pangulo. Wala pa siyang kahit isang linggo. Kung hindi magawang tumulong ni Speaker Cayetano sa ginagawang trabaho ni VP, kahit man lang umiwas muna siya sa paninira (The VP has just started the job passed on to her by the President. She hasn’t even been there a week. If Speaker Cayetano can’t help in the VP’s work, he should at least refrain from maligning her),” Gutierrez said in a statement.
Gutierrez said government officials should be united in the campaign against illegal drugs “because if we’re quarreling this early, the drug lords will be celebrating.”
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon also bristled at Cayetano’s statement.
“I am saddened by his statement. Such comments are totally uncalled for, especially coming from the Speaker of the House,” Drilon said in a statement.
Drilon also said: “The gravity of this issue on illegal drugs calls for everyone to set aside politics. In the remaining two and a half years of the administration, we should all work together to solve this problem. Malacañang has vowed full support for the Vice President in order to fulfill this enormous task. We expect the allies of this administration to do no less.”
Cayetano said it would be best for Robredo and the country if the Vice President would keep silent “maybe for at least a week or two.”
“I guess it just so happens that the vice president is the favorite media, or she likes media exposure,” he said.
In his first month as Speaker, Cayetano said he asked colleagues and the House staff to be “involved in all the meetings, get yourself acquainted, and everything, then do the talking later.”
However, in Robredo’s case, he said the Vice President immediately announced that she plans to let the United Nations look into the abuses of the drug war and change Oplan Tokhang because it has already gained “notoriety” for the number of innocent lives lost.
“Then now she (Robredo) says, she’ll call for a briefing from all the departments and agencies involved. There’s no briefing yet so why already all of these ideas and criticisms?” Cayetano said.
Cayetano made this statement three days after Robredo had her first meeting with ICAD’s top leaders, composed of Aquino, Gamboa, Sec. Ramon Lopez (Department of Trade and Industry), Catalino Cuy (Dangerous Drugs Board) and Sec. Eduardo Año (Department of Interior and Local Government).
The meeting, which served as a “listening exercise” for Robredo, was held at the Office of the Vice President in Quezon City.
Cayetano also expressed apprehension over the Vice President’s call for the anti-drug operatives to wear body cameras, saying it should be studied carefully to ensure that the lives of law enforcers will not be in peril especially in buy-bust operations.
“Look all around the world, when do they wear bodycams? Usually, when it’s special forces’ operations like when they try to get (Osama) Bin Laden but if it’s day-to-day, or like (drug) trafficking, it’s been proven that these bodycams change the attitude of the police,” he said. – With Wendell Vigilia