IT WAS a challenge almost everybody thought will not be accepted. After all, Vice President Leonor “Leni” Robredo has been a vociferous critic of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, and its collateral damage in terms of human lives.
On Tuesday, the Vice President’s spokesman all but issued a malevolent rejection of President Duterte’s order, as if it was he who was invited to become co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD). The next day, the Vice President herself faced the media and announced that she is taking on the challenge, accepting without reservations the appointment earlier made by Duterte to be co-chairperson of the policy-making committee that is handling the anti-drugs campaign.
This has become a master move for the Duterte administration, for the President had been accused of baiting Mrs. Robredo into accepting a position/assignment in which she will surely fail. Brickbats and criticisms were hurled against the President, saying the offer was insincere, malicious and insulting. Antonio Trillanes IV, Congressman Edcel Lagman, Atty. Ibarra Gutierrez and others easily joined a chorus to dissuade Leni from accepting the task.
Many level-headed senators, however, like Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino, had urged the VP to accept the President’s offer. Tolentino said Robredo is after all part of the government, and might really have good ideas on how to win the anti-drugs war.
It is good for Vice President Leni to rationalize and explain her decision to accept the daunting task this way: “This issue is not a game. It is serious because lives are at stake.
They are asking me if I am ready for this task. I am asking them, are you ready for me?”
At the outset, Robredo made it clear that while she is ready to help the government in ending the drug menace, this acceptance does not mean she would be silent on issues she had been passionately articulate about. One of these concerns — extrajudicial killings — has been the most controversial item in the opposition’s criticisms of Duterte, and was even blown up as a raging international issue for which critics of the administration wish the Philippines could be sanctioned.
It is well for the Vice President to point out that President Duterte has only two-and-a-half years left in his term, yet the promised solution to the proliferation of drugs is still nebulous.
While time is running out, Vice President Leni Robledo believes with proper coordination and hard, honest work, she and the President’s men may still make a deep dent in this anti-crime effort.