Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo addressrd the media on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, to announce that she was accepting the designation to lead the anti-illegal drug campaign. CHARLIE VILLEGAS/OVP
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo on Wednesday accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s dare for her to take over the bloody war on drugs.
Robredo said that if only to “stop the killings of the innocent and hold to account those responsible,” she had accepted the post against the advice of her allies, who claimed the offer was insincere or a trap.
“Kaya tinatanggap ko ang trabaho na binibigay sa akin ng Pangulo (That’s why I am accepting the job the President is giving me),” she said in a statement read before reporters.
“Hindi naman ako nagpahayag ng aking mga puna sa drug war dahil naghahabol ako ng puwesto. Hindi ko hiniling ito. Sa Pangulo nanggaling ang ideyang ito (I did not criticize the drug war because I was after a post. I did not ask for this. The idea came from the President),” she said.
Malacañang on Tuesday announced the appointment of Robredo as co-chairperson of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, which is chaired by the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration, Aaron Aquino.
Robredo’s spokesman, Barry Gutierrez, had initially questioned the appointment, noting that the 2017 executive order forming the committee did not provide for the post of co-chairperson.
Duterte, according to documents released by the Palace on Tuesday, ordered all committee members on Oct. 31 to extend their assistance to Robredo, who he said would lead the drug war until the end of her term on June 30, 2022, unless her appointment was sooner revoked.
Duterte took offense over Robredo’s comments that the drug war was a failure and ought to be reviewed.
Earlier on Wednesday, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said that “In offering and appointing VP Leni (Robredo) as Drug Czar, the President is simply being open to suggestions from a critic of the drug war. PRRD (Duterte) believes that there is no better person who can implement such suggestions than the person making them.”
“The Vice President is welcome to the Cabinet. It is a golden opportunity worth taking. This is her moment. She should seize it. Destiny beckons. History awaits her,” he added.
Gutierrez told reporters the vice president would need to “get up to speed [so] she can hit the ground running,” and that she would have to work with Aquino, who had said the drug war would fail with Robredo at the helm because of her lack of experience in law enforcement.
Detained senator Leila de Lima, another drug war critic, said she was glad over the likelihood of the anti-narcotics drive changing course. “Now the ball is in the administration’s court. As VP Leni accepted the role offered to her, the President and his underlings need to fall in line and give the VP all the help that she needs to succeed,” she said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Robredo’s acceptance of the post was “very good news.”
“As a matter of fact, the Vice President can start with some of the important concerns like prevention and rehabilitation. She can focus on that right away,” he told reporters.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Robredo should be “given the chance,” and urged the public to support the vice president.
“I do not know their intentions in Malacañang but the Vice President took on its face value and would want to help in the anti-drug war in the manner consistent with the rule of law,” Drilon said. (Felipe F. Salvosa II, PressONE.ph)