DAVAO CITY, Philippines — An international human rights group called the appointment of Vice President Leni Roberdo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) by President Rodrigo Duterte “a total sham.” This after the President announced Robredo’s sudden termination from the post she was appointed on just two weeks prior.
“Vice President Robredo barely warmed her seat before President Duterte fired her as co-chairperson of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs. Was his offer of involving her in finding solutions to the situation of drugs in the Philippines ever really serious?” Carlos Conde, Asia researcher of Human Rights Watch (HRW), asked.
He added that Duterte did not even give Robredo the chance to show what she could do to make the campaign against drugs effective and “non-violent and rights-respecting.”
“By firing her on such ludicrous grounds, Duterte reveals he was never even remotely sincere, and exposes his game to appoint her as a total sham,” Conde said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Sunday (Nov. 24) confirmed that the firing of Robredo.
“The President has been more than patient enough, giving the Vice President 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 can not twiddle its thumb and sit idly hoping for a flash of brilliance from the Vice President,” said Panelo.
But in her short stint in the position, Robredo said she already met with ICAD members and police officials. She also talked with health officials about the drug rehabilitation efforts, where she later pushed for higher budget to fund separate rehabilitation centers for drug users and small-time drug pushers.
The Vice President also met with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), US embassy and community-based advocacy groups and discussed about the drug problem, and the best practices and experiences of the other countries in anti-drug campaign.
Robredo previously criticized the senseless deaths that accompanied the anti-drug operations, and intended to reassess the campaign and shift it to become more effective without the killings.
HRW’s Conde said, “Robredo does a great service to the Filipino people and her country by continuing her strong criticism of the rights abusing “drug war” and demanding accountability for the perpetrators of these crimes against human rights.”
VP Leni’s appointment as ICAD co-chair ‘doomed’ from start
Meanwhile, lawmaker from Cagayan de Oro City said Monday that Robredo’s appointment “was doomed from the start.”
“The firing of Vice Pres Robredo as drug czar drug is rather unfortunate. President Duterte’s experiment in appointing her was doomed from the very start,” said the city’s 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez in a statement.
He said Robredo’s political ties and her different approach to fighting the country’s drug problem may have been the factors that led to her termination as the ICAD co-chair, barely three weeks after Duterte appointed her.
“The VP is leader of the opposition, a lawyer and an advocate of human rights. Her views on the anti illegal drugs campaign will certainly be diametrically opposed to the current thrusts of the administration,” Rodriguez said.
He said the President’s “All Boys Club” was therefore worried to say the least on her entry into the picture.
“To them her appointment was totally unacceptable. So it’s now business as usual,” the legislator said.
Meanwhile, the police in the region will continue to do its job of going after individuals involved in illicit substances whoever is chosen as the new ICAD co-chair.
“[Police Regional Office] 10 will respect whatever the decision in the higher level authorities and just follow whatever the directives pertains to our mandates in maintaining the peace and order of the region,” said Lt. Col. Mardy Hortilosa, the police regional spokesperson, Monday (Nov. 25).
“The regional office will continue to work everyday to protect the people and will leave to the policy makers the making of policy and strategy pertaining to anti-illegal drugs operation since our job is to implement whatever mandated to us thru laws, policy and guidelines,” he said. — With reports from Ken Cagula and Jigger Jerusalem (davaotoday.com)