By Raymund Antonio and Hannah Torregoza
Vice President Leni Robredo has buckled down to work as the government’s new drug czar by sending invites for a meeting with the members of the anti-drug body.
Robredo, who is the leader of the opposition, said her meeting with member-agencies of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) is set tomorrow afternoon at the Quezon City Reception House.
She will now head the ICAD, with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director-General Aaron Aquino, who is expected to brief Robredo on the status of government’s war on drugs.
“Iyong number one na concern natin ‘yung patayan, kasi naniniwala ako na kaya nating ituloy ang laban with the same vigor, na within the bounds of rule of law, human rights, ‘yung standards of procedure so iyong ang aalamin natin (Our number concern is the killings, because I believe we can continue the fight with the same vigor, within the bounds of rule of law, human rights, standards of procedure so that’s what we would find out),” she said.
“Ang iibahin talaga natin, iyong manner by which ginagawa ito (We will change the manner how it is being done),” Robredo stressed.
As this developed, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson confirmed on Thursday that Robredo has formally expressed her interest in seeking his suggestion and expertise in law enforcement to help her in her new role as co-chair of the government’s anti-illegal drug task force.
Lacson said they are arranging their schedules so they can sit down and discuss the matter, following her decision to accept the position of co-chair of ICAD.
“Yes. We are fixing our schedule to sit down,” Lacson said in a text message to reporters.
“I am grateful and humbled by her gesture. More than that, it shows her sincerity and seriousness in tackling her new task,” added Lacson.
Robredo noted there is much work to be done following her acceptance of the ICAD post. Among these include studying the enforcement side of the campaign against illegal drugs.
“Iyong minamanage ko lang kasi sa opisina maraming kaming ginagawa, iyong minimum disruptions sa ginagawa namin pero dadagdagan namin ‘yung oras ng araw namin para maasikaso ‘yung lahat ng problema sa bagong assignment (We just have to manage it because we have much work in the office, the minimum disruptions on what we do, but we will add more hours in our day to deal with the problems on the new assignment),” she added.
The Vice President said she is ready to meet Duterte and attend Cabinet meetings as long as she is invited.
“Kapag pinatawag ako, pupunta naman ako (When I’m called, I’m going to attend),” she told reporters.
Robredo was not able to attend the Cabinet Meeting on Wednesday evening.
Asked about her working relationship with Aquino, Robredo said she was not taking it personally after the PDEA chief had earlier doubted her capability to lead the campaign.
“For me, I don’t take it personally. I’m not affected, because for me this is work. I don’t take the comments personally. There is no space for emotions in our job,”
Meanwhile, President Duterte welcomed the decision of Robredo to accept his offer to be the government’s drug czar, saying this will give the latter the opportunity to know the realities on the ground, especially with the so-called extrajudicial killings.
“The President mentioned it was good that Vice President Ma. Leonor Robredo accepted his formal offer to co-chair the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD),” Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said after a Cabinet meeting in Malacañang Wednesday evening.
“With the Vice President at the helm of the anti-narcotics campaign, President Duterte expects that the former would see the realities on the ground, particularly with respect to the government’s position against extrajudicial or state-sponsored killings, and understand that deaths occur due to the violent reactions on the part of agents of the illegal drug trade against the strict enforcement of the law,” he added.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the Vice President had already called for a meeting in the ICAD. Panelo said this move by the Vice President did not surprise him.
“Ibig sabihin (It just means) she is very dedicated to assume her new job,” he said.
However, while the Palace is yet to formally invite the Vice President to Malacañang, Panelo said it would now be up to Robredo if she would still wants to talk to the President about her new role.
“Palagay ko dapat si VP Leni ang mag-request. Member of the Cabinet na siya, eh. Palagay ko pupunta si VP Leni dito (I think it’s the Vice President who should request for a meeting with the President since she’s now a Cabinet member. But I think she’ll come here),” he said.
“Depende kung ano pa ang gusto niyang malaman kay Presidente. Ibig sabihin nagtatrabaho na siya (It’s up to her if there are still things she wants to learn from the President. But it means she’s already working),” he added.
President Duterte offered the post of drug czar to Robredo in late October after she criticized that the drug war was a failure and needed reassessment.
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya on Thursday said Robredo can provide fresh ideas now that she is the ICAD co-chairman.
Malaya said the Vice-President may impart alternative strategies since the administration is one with her in curbing the illegal drug trade in the country.
Robredo had earlier called for a reassessment of the Duterte administration’s strategy in combating illegal drugs in the country. (With reports from Argyll B. Geducos and Chito A. Chavez)
READ MORE: Robredo accepts drug czar post