VICE President Leni Robredo was used by Malacañang as escape goat for its failed campaign against drugs, Liberal Party president and Sen. Francis Pangilinan said yesterday after the Vice President was fired as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee Against Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
“A desperate attempt at blaming others for the mess they themselves created,” Pangilinan said.
He added: “The appointment and the eventual firing of VP Leni as anti-drug co-chair prove what we have been saying all along: Both the war on drugs and the appointment of the vice president as ICAD co-chair are bluff and bluster.”
Pangilinan said the administration trained its sights on Robredo and on her supposed “missteps” instead of focusing on strategies to totally put an end to the illegal drugs problem, the life and soul of Duterte’s presidential campaign advocacy in 2016.
“Sa katunayan, ‘yung palpak na war on drugs ginawa nilang war on VP (In reality, they transformed the war on drugs to a war against the VP),” the senator said.
He added that “this administration did not even arrest drug lords, and it even glorified ninja cops and their protectors.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, said it was not a surprise that Robredo was kicked out as drug czar especially following the President’s public statement that he does not trust her.
“Noong nagkaroon ng contentious issues na walang meeting of minds, medyo nagkaroon talaga ng problema. Kaya sabi ko wala nang sorpresa (The problem started when they had unresolved contentious issues, that’s why I said it was not a surprise),” Lacsn said.
As far as he is concerned, Lacson said did not see anything wrong with what Robredo did in the first two weeks as drug czar since the first thing she did was meet with members of the ICAD, with foreign counterparts, and other sectors which may help in the campaign against drugs.
Lacson said the President may have had a different perspective since Duterte may have received other information, but acknowledged that the President need not explain his decision.
“Walang batas na nagsasabing kailangan i-justify ng nag-appoint ang pag remove. Lack of confidence, lack of trust, sufficient reason para matanggal
(There is no law which says that the appointing authority must justify his decision. Lack of confidence, lack of trust (are) sufficient reasons to fire someone),” he said.
He reiterated that Robredo should have immediately talked with the President to determine the scope of her authority in the campaign against drugs.
“That (communication) would have made a lot of difference, kasi defined lahat. Ngayon makikita natin nung lumampas si VP sa inaatang sa kanyang function o parameters (That [communication] would have made a lot of difference because it will define everything. Now we have seen that the VP went beyond her function or parameters),” he said.
Lacson said it is also proper that Robredo should not make public whatever it was that she learned on the administration’s war on drugs as it will only worsen the situation.
“Sa akin I don’t think it’s still necessary. What for? Dahil binigyan ka ng katungkulan na gagampanan mo, ngayong natanggal ka, isisiwalat mo ang mga natuklasan mo? (For me I don’t think it’s still necessary. What for? Because you were given a task, and now that you’re fired you will disclose everything you discovered?),” Lacson said.
“Pero kung may nakita siyang pagkakamali that would point to several persons that could be held criminally liable, dapat noon pang nasa position siya(If she discovered something that will point to several persons who could be held criminally liable, she should have done that while she was still the drug czar),” he added.
Lacson said that from the very start, Duterte’s war on drug has become politicized since there were some sectors who disapproved of the methods applied by the administration.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of the Liberal Party said Robredo’s only “mistake is that she took her role as anti-drugs czar very seriously while Duterte considered her appointment as a flippant joke and an off-the-cuff reaction to her criticisms on his bloody war against drugs.”
“From the very start, Robredo was set up to fail,” Lagman said. “The President cannot allow Robredo to succeed in his centerpiece program of a violent anti-narcotics drive where he himself has dismally failed.”
Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, who is also from the Liberal Party, said: “What is there to fear from your own appointed drug czar finally getting to the bottom of our country’s drug trade?”
“She may have discovered significant information on the root of our nation’s drug trade,” said the lawmaker.
Lawyer Ched Diokno said: “Malinaw ang plano ni VP Leni bilang ICAD co-chair: na itigil ang patayan, habulin ang big-time drug lords at sindikato na nagbebenta at nagre-recycle ng droga, at panagutin ang human rights abusers. (VP Leni’s goal as ICAD co-chair was clear: to stop the killings, go after the big-time drug lords and syndicates who sell and recycle drugs, and hold accountable those who have violated human rights). It looks like they fired her for asking the right questions.”
Retired Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes and Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo criticized Robeso’s firing and said it was a shameful move and showed Duterte’s fickleness.
In a statement, Bastes also took to task Duterte’s treatment of the vice president.
“The decision of Duterte is shameful. He is treating the Vice President just like a housemaid of his Cabinet. I think that the real reason for firing her is that she is going to discover criminal anomalies in the drug war including the suspicion that Duterte could be cuddling drug lords like his friend Peter Lim,” Bastes said.
He added it could also be a move to divert the public’ attention away from the glitches of the country’s hosting of the 30th ASEAN games.
“The fiasco of the SEA arrangements is another embarrassment episode of this administration,” the retired bishop said.
For his part, Pabillo said the hiring and firing of Robredo as anti-drug czar show the fickle-mindedness of Duterte in the way he runs the country.
“He has no plan at all and governs by his whims. It also shows his great insecurity in front of women. When they do something he eliminates them, like what he did to (Sen. Leila) De Lima, Sister Patricia Fox, former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and now to VP Leni,” Pabillo said.
Likewise, Pabillo said the move showed Duterte’s tyrannical whims in governing the country who cannot tolerate the opposition.
“He shows his tyrannical bend. He cannot tolerate others who have different ways of doing things. He wants his own way at whatever cost it may be. Can we trust such a leader?,” Pabillo added.
Sen. Christopher Go, a former special assistant to President Duterte, yesterday said the President only heeded the “advice” of Pangilinan to just fire Robredo as drug czar as the President does not trust her.
Go said he was able to talk to Duterte Sunday night before leaving for South Korea wherein the President confided to him the basis for firing Robredo.
“Hiningi ng isang kapwa ko senador na ‘wala naman kayong tiwala kay Leni eh, you fire her’. Sinunod lang ng Pangulo ang payo ni Senator (Francis) Kiko Pangilinan na i-fire si VP.
Hiningi nila, binigay ng Pangulo (One of my colleagues said that since the President does not trust Leni just ‘fire her’. The President only heeded the advice of Sen. Francis Pangilinan. They asked for it, the President gave it to them),” Go said.
Go said the public seemed disappointed with the way Robredo handled the war on drugs since based on surveys, 82 percent of the population approved with the way the Duterte administration handled the campaign against drugs.
“Sa dalawang linggong ‘yan may namatay bang drug lord? Eh ‘yun ang gusto ng tao kung hindi, hindi titigil. Kailangan patayin mo ang mga drug lord para tumigil (In the two weeks she has been drug czar, did we see a single drug lord killed? The people want it that way, otherwise the illegal drugs problems will not stop. We have to kill drug lords if we want to put an end to the illegal drugs problems),” Go added.
Government data showed more than 6, 000 have been killed since 2016 when the government intensified its anti-drug campaign, while more than 9,000 administrative cases have been filed against erring cops.
The Philippine National Police has been shaken by controversies, particularly the issue of “ninja cops” who recycle or sell illegal drugs seized from anti-narcotics operation.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra lamented the sacking of Robredo and said was a lost opportunity for the government and the opposition to come together and work for a common cause.
“There was this opportunity for the administration and even the opposition to band together and put up a united front against a common enemy which is illegal drugs. But circumstances caused this venture to crash before it could even take flight, so I feel sad about it,” Guevarra told reporters.
“We lost an opportunity because she could have contributed something to ICAD,” he said as he urged agencies under the ICAD to band and work together to further boost the government’s campaign against the scourge of the illegal drugs trade.
He said the real battle in the campaign is on the ground and not on the political arena.
But the DOJ chief said he will not advise Duterte to reconsider his decision to sack Robredo.
“Alam ng ating Presidente ang kanyang ginagawa (Our President knows what he is doing),” he added.
Guevarra has been supportive of Robredo’s appointment as anti-drug czar. He has said that a failure in the anti-drug war will be a failure of the entire government and not just of Robredo.
WORK GOES ON
The PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency assured the firing of Robredo as ICAD co-chair will not affect the government’s war on drugs.
“The President has spoken. The PNP respects the decision of the President terminating the services of VP Leni Robredo as ICAD Co-Chair,” said PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac.
“We assure the public that the campaign against high value targets of illegal drugs will remain relentless following the rule of law and with utmost respect for human rights,” added Banac.
PDEA chief Aaron Aquino said: PDEA respects and believes in the wisdom of the President. Whatever happens, PDEA will continue to carry out its mandate to rid of the country of illegal drugs with utmost sincerity and integrity.”
Banac said a number of operations have been conducted throughout the country, without any casualty, during the time of Robredo as ICAD co-chair.
“That is what we want to continue,” said Banac.
Banac said the PNP was able to get ideas from Robredo during her incumbency as ICAD co-chair “on how to enhance our campaign (against illegal drugs), including her advocacy and rehabilitation of users.”
The PNP learned how Robredo wanted the war on drugs to be pursued.
“Even if she’s no longer around, we are still considering her inputs,” said Banac.
“She advocated for strengthening of advocacy and rehabilitation clusters as part of long term solutions to the drug problem (and) strengthening of law enforcement and prosecution clusters through the use of body cameras in anti drug operations to ensure transparency,” said Banac. – With Wendell Vigilia, Ashzel Hachero and Victor Reyes