Senators weigh in on Duterte’s challenge to Robredo to take over the drug war

Published October 29, 2019, 2:53 PM

by Rica Arevalo

By Hannah Torregoza

Senators are realistic that only President Rodrigo Duterte can implement the government’s war on drugs, unless he delegates the authority.

Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“Only the President can wield sufficient authority and power over our law enforcement officials,” Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said in a statement.

“Unless he delegates a blanket authority, including the power to hire and fire, no one else in the government bureaucracy can do it better than the Chief Executive under any other given circumstances,” Lacson said.

Lacson was reacting to the President’s claim he will give Vice President Leni Robredo powers over all anti-drug activities for six months after she criticized his crackdown on illegal drugs.

READ MORE: Duterte to yield enforcement power to Robredo

“It’s rhetorical as usual. We know it is not going to happen…” Lacson said.

“Having said that, the President is easily peeved when his administration’s top priorities—such as eliminating illegal drugs and corruption, which he used as his campaign platform—become the subject of criticisms,” he added.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, said he believes that the President uttered the statement not out of sarcasm “but more of an expression of irritation and disgust.

“At best it’s half meant,” Pangilinan said when sought for comment.

“Six (6) months? Eh sila nga 3 taon ng nakaupo wala pa ring nahuhuling druglord o kinukulong na opisyal ng BOC sa tone-toneladang pinalusot na shabu sa Customs (They were in power for three years yet they have not arrested a drug lord nor an official of the Bureau of Customs involved in the smuggling of tons of shabu in Customs),” Pangilinan pointed out.

According to Pangilinan, if the President is serious, he should be willing to give Robredo the chance to head the anti-illegal drug campaign for three years also.

“Yung mga ninja cops na sangkot sa iligal na droga binigyan pa ng pinakamataas na pwesto sa PNP. Hindi naman patas ang usapan kapag 6 months lang. Dapat maging patas. Gawing 3 years para fair (Those ‘ninja cops’ involved in illegal drugs were even promoted in the Philippine National Police. I don’t think it’s fair if he is open to give it for six months only. To be fair, he must give it to her for three years),” Pangilinan said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, for his part, said he believes the President only wanted to sustain the momentum of his administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign with the help of other government officials when he made such pronouncement.

“I think the President wants to emphasize that the fight against illegal drugs should be sustained and should be experienced by other officials who have something to say about this fight against illegal drugs,” Gatchalian said.

“Definitely in all government programs, including the fight against illegal drugs, dapat open to suggestions, opinions and criticisms so that we can improve,” said the senator.

Case in point, Gatchalian said the Philippine National Police (PNP) should make it a point to cleanse its ranks from rogue cops who are out to destroy the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

“We empower our policemen to fight illegal drugs in a sustained manner, but they should also look at their men. There are many scalawags (within their ranks) and are using this fight against illegal drugs to tarnish the government and their institution,” he pointed out.

But Gatchalian said the idea of vice president Robredo leading the country’s anti-drug war campaign is not far-fetched.

“It’s not impossible because the President has the power to delegate (a task) to another person, or to a Cabinet member,” he said.

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima also said she finds Duterte’s “tongue-in-cheek” proposal for Robredo “senseless and outrageous” saying such challenge is the sort that would only appeal to his “fanatic fan base.”

“Duterte’s tongue-in-cheek proposal for VP Leni Robredo to take over his war on drugs for six months is the sort that appeals to his fanatic fan base. But like all his other statements of the kind, it is senseless and outrageous when it comes to being considered as a serious policy pronouncement,” De Lima said in a statement.

“Of course, the proposal has basis in law and the Constitution, but Duterte must first relinquish his post entirely to VP Robredo, who will then be Acting President throughout the over-acting phase of Duterte’s spoiled brat persona, and not only take over law enforcement functions,” she said.

But De Lima said Duterte should take the challenge then and relegate his authority and let the vice president take over.

“So I throw back Duterte’s challenge at him. Follow the Constitution. Transmit to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives your written declaration that you are unable to discharge the powers and duties of your office, and let VP Robredo take over,” de Lima said.

“That is the only manly way to stay true to your challenge to VP Robredo to fix what you have not been able to fix the past three years of your miserable term,” the detained lawmaker said.