By Genalyn Kabiling
The designation of Vice President Leni Robredo as anti-drug czar is “not a mistake” but she should start presenting her new strategy in fighting the country’s drug problem, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said they have not yet heard any new proposal from Robredo since she agreed to serve as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) early the month.
“I have not read nor heard from her, her program, new ideas that can be added to the present tack of the ICAD. Precisely she was appointed because she said let’s change different tacks, but what are these tacks, we have not heard from her. Nasaan na ba ito, yun ang hinahantay namin [Where are the ideas? We are waiting for them],” he said in a phone interview with reporters.
“Dapat by this time nag-a-announce na siya ‘O ito ang aking plataporma, ito ang gagawin ko bilang czar [By this time, she should be announcing, ‘This is my platform, this is my plan as anti drug czar’],” he said.
Panelo also maintained that Robredo could still perform her job as ICAD co-chairperson even though she will not have a Cabinet rank and will not be given access to classified documents.
He said even if the President may have “reservation” in trusting Robredo with state secrets, they are still prepared to listen to her ideas on how to effectively combat the drug menace.
“Kahit na wala akong tiwala sayo sa mga classified secrets pero marami kang ideas how to solve the drug problem, papakinggan kita [Even if I don’t trust you with classified secrets but you have many ideas how to solve the drug problem, I will listen to you,” Panelo said.
“It has nothing to do with trust. It has something to do with the effectiveness of your ideas. If you can help me I will get you,” he added.
Asked if the President trusts Robredo as the anti-drug czar, Panelo said: “Meron pa rin. [It’s still there]. Ako if you will ask me, I’m still waiting for her program, how she will perform her job.”
The President earlier reconsidered his decision to appoint Robredo to his Cabinet due to her supposed “missteps.” Robredo’s move to consult foreign individuals or entities that have prejudged the drug war, her insistence to obtain classified information, and her tendency to share information to others were deemed “red signs” the President could not ignore, according to Panelo.
“Since she has talked with certain institutions and people that are supposed to be enemies of the state, to the mind of the President, to the mind of the President that’s a dangerous sign,” he said.
Asked if the President considers Robredo’s appointment a mistake, Panelo said: “It was not a mistake.”
“As I said, anybody who wants to help the government is welcome, and in fact we encourage them to help. That is precisely why that post was offered to her because she had many suggestions or ideas in her mind,” he said.
“Hindi naman niya binanggit pero ngayon hinahantay natin ‘yun [She has not mentioned anything but now we are waiting for them],” he added.
Denying Robredo access to classified information about the drug war would also not limit her capability to address the problem, Panelo claimed.
He said the public already knows the magnitude of the drug problem, the suspected involvement of barangay and other public servants in the illegal drug trade. The President has also previously divulged the list of officials allegedly involved in the narcotics trade, he added.
“Kailangan ang gawin kasi ni VP Leni, gumawa na siya ng kanyang programa. Alam na natin ang problema eh [VP Leni should immediately craft her programs. We all know the problem]. She knows that already,” he added.
He said if he were Robredo, he would present her anti-drug platform before the Cabinet.
“Kung ako sa kanya, magbigay na siya ng mga plano nya and then mag request na siya ng presentation sa Cabinet. And I think she can do that by coordinating with the other agencies,” he said.