Robredo’s camp said she would issue a statement today.Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed that Robredo had been fired as Duterte left for Busan, South Korea to attend that country’s 30th commemorative summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. / Office of the Vice President, Facebook release
DAVAO CITY , Philippines – The new anti-drug czar lasted less than three weeks.
Just days after President Duterte disclosed he could not trust Vice President Leni Robredo, he fired her yesterday as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
Robredo’s camp said she would issue a statement today.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed that Robredo had been fired as Duterte left for Busan, South Korea to attend that country’s 30th commemorative summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Medialdea has been designated as officer-in-charge while Duterte is in Korea.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Robredo’s services were “terminated” after both she and Sen. Francis Pangilinan, head of the opposition Liberal Party, “taunted” Duterte to fire her.
Panelo said all that Robredo had done as ICAD chief was to “embarrass the country.”
Last Saturday, Duterte publicly apologized to Robredo for saying that she had invited human rights probers of the United Nations to Manila. He said he apparently came across “fake news.”
Robredo was fired even before she could get clarification about the parameters of her new job, and after she said Duterte could dismiss her any time if he didn’t trust her.
“The Palace is announcing the termination of the services of Vice President Ma. Leonor Robredo as co-chairperson of the (ICAD),” Panelo said.
“This is also in response to the taunt and dare of VP Robredo for the President to just tell her that he wants her out.”
Panelo lamented that Robredo blew an “offer to make the campaign against illegal drugs better,” wherein the opposition and administration could have united in fighting a common scourge.
“Unfortunately, she wasted such opportunity and used the same as a platform to attack the methods undertaken by the administration,” Panelo said.
Since accepting her appointment on Nov. 6, Robredo has been meeting with officials of various agencies under ICAD as well as representatives of the US government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Panelo also lambasted this.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency has been supporting the Philippines’ anti-narcotics campaign for decades. The UN office, Robredo said, shared best practices in the global fight against drugs.
Duterte announced last Oct. 28 that he would name Robredo as ICAD co-chair in response to the Vice President’s statement that his war on drugs must be “tweaked.”
Robredo, the leader of the opposition, had accepted the post, saying it would allow her to stop “unnecessary killings.”
Du t e r t e h a d s a id Robredo’ s post would have Cabinet rank, but backtracked after she met with representatives of the UN and the Catholic Church – institutions that have been critical of the government’s anti-drug campaign.
“Such tack was even motivated by hubris to prove their past arguments against the anti-illegal drug operations were correct. It at once crumbled as her request for police da t a v a l ida t e d the falsity of their arguments that the extra-judicial killings are state-sponsored,” Panelo said.
He s t r e s s e d that the functions of the ICAD, as performed by its four clusters, are already spelled out in Executive Order No. 15.
“So is the role of its head of ensuring that the objectives of the ICAD are accomplished. If VP Robredo wanted clarification in the scope and limits of
her new task, she could have sought audience with the President, which she failed to do. As always, she talked – not with her appointing authority – but right in front of the cameras asking the President on her supposed mandate,” Panelo said.
If Robredo is really serious in addressing the cause of the drug problem, Panelo said she should have gone down to the grassroots – talking to the victims, to their families, and to the communities.
“Instead, she opted to have audience with the United Nations and the United States embassy officials who remain out of touch with the realities of the local drug problem on the ground,” Panelo said.
Malacañang maintained that Duterte gave Robredo ample authority and powers to direct all responsible government instrumentalities to act in accordance with the strategic objectives that she might have had in mind, in line with putting an end to the drug menace.
“However, the Vice President resorted to unduly baiting international attention on the matter, particularly from persons or entities that know little or none at all about our situation, other than their own bias or unsubstantiated prejudgment,” Panelo said.
“Further, given the transparency of her motive to politicize the issue, the intention of the Vice President to seek access to confidential law enforcement information cannot be given the benefit of the doubt as being free from malice or manipulation. Essentially, what the Vice President has done is to embarrass our country, apart from detrimentally undermining the government’s efforts to preserve the general welfare,” Panelo said.
He argued that Duterte has been more than patient enough, giving Robredo adequate opportunity to discuss possible courses of action with him.
“More than two weeks have passed since the Vice President accepted her designation as ICAD chairperson. But she has not presented any new program that she envisioned to implement. In a campaign where people’s lives are at risk, a day is an eternity. The government cannot twiddle its thumb and sit idly hoping for a flash of brilliance from the Vice President,” Panelo said.
“It is time to put the issue to eternal rest and bury it in the graveyard of what could have been, as well as dismiss any obstacle that impedes the government to focus on the issue at hand,” Panelo added.
Earlier this week, Duterte said he could not trust Robredo with confidential information but claimed he would not fire her.
Robredo then asked Duterte to tell her directly if he did not want her to remain as ICAD co-chair.
The comment did not sit well with Malacañang, which viewed it as “disrespectful” to the Chief Executive.
“Just like accepting a position, resigning from it solely depends upon the person, and not with the appointing power. If one is not comfortable with it, or cannot stand the heat in the kitchen, the honorable thing to do is to leave the post quietly,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement last Friday.
“It may not be civil nor ethical for Vice
President Leni to taunt or dare the President in demanding the latter
to tell her that he does not want her for the job she was appointed to or that he wants her to resign from her current post,” Panelo added.
‘Sorry for fake news’
Saying he might have fallen for fake news, Duterte had earlier apologized to Robredo for lambasting her for supposedly inviting UN representatives to the Philippines to look into the extrajudicial killings under the present administration.
“That must have been false news, if I believed in false news, it is still news and you only learn it is false after it has come up (in the) news,” Duterte said a chance interview in Davao late last Saturday. “So if she says that’s false news, I believe her, and I am sorry because I said you only realize that it is false news when the news comes out.”
The President had earlier lashed out at Robredo and threatened to fire her if she would reveal state secrets as well as allow human rights advocate Phelim Kine to come to the country to help her in the drug war.
Kine had offered to help Robredo in reviewing Duterte’s “murderous drug war,” and said among his top pieces of advice would be to have the President arrested.
Irked by Kine’s statement on Twitter, Duterte also cast insults at Kine and threatened to slap him in front of Robredo in case he indeed visits Manila.
In the same interview, Duterte maintained it is not easy for him to trust Robredo because they are on different sides of the political fence.
“There can never be trust that can be nurtured between the two of us for the simple reason that Leni Robredo is with the opposition, ako nandito sa kabila (and I’m on the other side),” Duterte said.
Since he appointed Robredo as co-chairperson of ICAD, Duterte has not personally talked to the vice president on the parameters of her duties. She has also not been allowed to join Cabinet meetings..
Earlier yesterday, Robredo maintained that she would not resign from her post as ICAD co-chair.
In her weekly radio program, Robredo said she would not tender her resignation even after Duterte publicly declared that he does not trust her weeks after he appointed her to the body.
“He was the one who appointed me. He also has the power to remove me,” Robredo said in Filipino, referring to Duterte.
“Of course, if I am removed, I cannot do anything about it. But I will not resign, especially now that I have seen that there are a lot of things to do, that I can extend a lot of help,” she added.
The Vice President admitted that she was facing some resistance in the law enforcement cluster of the ICAD, in an apparent reference to previous statements of officials who questioned the extent of her mandate.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Aaron Aquino, who sits as Robredo’s co-chair in the ICAD, initially refused to give her access to the list of high-value drug personalities, saying it was beyond her mandate. – With Alexis Romero, Janvic Mateo, Paolo Romero
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