VP Robredo needs all the support she can get

Published November 12, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Atty. Joey D. Lina
Atty. Joey D. Lina

A variety of reactions have swirled around the appointment and subsequent acceptance of Vice President Leni Robredo to be co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

While some believe that both President Rodrigo Duterte and Mrs. Robredo deserve to be lauded, others have expressed doubts on whether the move is indeed a good idea, with some even going to the extent of belittling her capability and calling a “big joke” her new role as drug czar.

There are also naysayers who ascribe ulterior motives behind the President’s decision, saying she is being led into a trap, or set up to fail and be a scapegoat, or that the purpose is to shame her in retaliation for her criticism of the administration’s top priority program.

In the last Saturday’s DZMM teleradyo program Magpayo Nga Kayo which I co-host with ace broadcaster May Valle Ceniza, there was even a viewer who called to say that he feared the Vice President might even be hit by the so-called Stockholm syndrome if she eventually becomes sympathetic to those responsible for the “murderous brutality” the drug war has been characterized with.

And amid all the suspicion and criticism, there is growing confusion on the legitimacy of ICAD itself, on whether its general setup, functions, and parameters are not in accordance or are in outright conflict with the spirit and letter of RA 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which ought to be the law that is key to a “comprehensive, integrated, unified and balanced national drug use prevention and control strategy” that should spell success in the current drug war.

Most of the confusion stems from a legal question: Is Executive Order 15, issued on March 2017, creating ICAD more powerful than the law passed by Congress?

Legal experts point out that from how EO 15 is worded, it gives the impression that the ICAD – headed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as chair and consisting of 20 other government agencies as members, foremost of which is the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) – is in charge and overall leader of the war on drugs.

Section 2 of EO 15 states: “The ICAD shall ensure that each member agency shall implement and comply with all policies, laws and issuances pertaining to the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, in an integrated and synchronized manner. It shall have the following specific functions: a. Ensure the effective conduct of anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of high-value drug personalities down to the street-level peddlers and users; b. Spearhead and coordinate the implementation of the National Anti-Drug Plan of Action (NADPA) 2015-2020…”

On the other hand, it is clear in RA 9165 that the DDB is on top of the command hierarchy, with PDEA in a supporting role as its implementing arm. While the President is overall-in-charge for the execution of all laws, including those related to the anti-drugs campaign, it is the DDB – which is directly under the Office of the President – that should be the leader in the drug war as it crafts the policies and strategies to control and prevent illegal drugs, and implemented through PDEA.

I’m quite familiar with the DDB and its role, considering that I served as its first chair in a concurrent capacity when I was DILG Secretary at the time RA 9165 took effect in 2002.

By law, the DDB is a high-powered organization composed of l7 members, nine of whom belong to President Duterte’s Cabinet – the Secretaries of the Departments of Justice, Health, National Defense, Finance, Labor and Employment, Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development, Foreign Affairs, and Education. Other members are the heads of the Commission on Higher Education and National Youth Commission, director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and national president of the Philippine Association of Social Workers Inc. With such brilliant minds in the DDB, inherent flaws and serious mistakes that plagued the drug war could have been avoided if only policies and strategies were made to undergo extensive scrutiny and planning by the DDB.

Another source of confusion is the rank of those at the helm of ICAD. The Palace had said that Mrs. Robredo will hold a Cabinet rank as ICAD co-chair. But the other co-chair, the PDEA director general, has a rank of Undersecretary, as stated in Section 82 of RA 9165.

Amid all the confusion, criticisms, and suspicions concerning ICAD, many have high hopes for the government’s war against illegal drugs with Mrs. Robredo now in a position to contribute greatly. And many feel drastic changes are on the horizon. There could probably be a significant decrease or even an end to the impunity of abusive lawmen involved in the “murderous brutality” the drug war has been known for.

“The President knows my position on the drug war, I’m against the killings of the innocent, I’m against abusive officials. He knows my criticisms. He knows what I would like to fix,” Mrs. Robredo had said. Many feel she exudes good faith. And many are elated the Palace wishes her well. The nation prays for her. She needs all the support she can get.

Email: [email protected]