By Argyll Geducos
BUSAN, South Korea—Malacañang denied that President Duterte’s decision to terminate Vice President Leni Robredo’s services from the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) was a move to divert the public’s attention from the controversy surrounding the Philippines’ hosting of the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after Liberal Party President Senator Francis Pangilinan raised the possibility that Robredo’s sacking from the ICAD was announced to serve as a smokescreen to the mounting blunders in connection with the regional sports event.
In an interview here, Panelo said the announcement on Robredo’s termination was not a diversionary tactic because the issue surrounding the SEA Games was already addressed by the organizers.
“The SEA Games organizers have apologized. You cannot discount any delays, incident of non-transport or late checking-in given the fact that there are so many athletes coming in,” he said.
Panelo announced on Sunday evening that President Duterte has terminated the services of Robredo from the ICAD supposedly because of the dare of Pangilinan and Robredo to Duterte to just fire the Vice President if he cannot trust her as the country’s drug czar.
Panelo, during his interview here, said that Robredo’s missteps were also considered when her services were terminated. The Vice President served as the drug czar for barely three weeks.
According to Panelo, it was now up to Robredo if she would want to appeal her termination to Duterte.
‘She’s a failure’
Meanwhile, Panelo said that Robredo was a failure as a drug czar because she failed to present her plans to the President during her short-lived stint.
“Apparently,” Panelo said when asked if Robredo was a failure as co-chair of the ICAD.
“My suggestion from the very start was since you have criticized the administration’s drive against illegal drugs as a failure or ineffective, then you must have already some ideas or suggestions or tact in your mind. But you never presented that for the past two weeks. We have not heard of that whether publicly or privately,” he added.
On November 15, Robredo said that she submitted her first report as the drug czar to President Duterte, adding that she was planning to submit weekly recommendations to the Chief Executive to refine the anti-drug campaign.
On November 19, five days before her termination from the ICAD, Duterte said he could not bring Robredo back to his Cabinet because he could not trust her.
In an interview here, Panelo admitted that because of his workload, Duterte may not have read Robredo’s reports when they were supposedly submitted and even before he made the decision to fire her from her drug czar post.
“This is the President doing something for the country. Ang daming trabaho ng presidente. Noon pa niya (Robredo) sana ginawa yun (The President has a lot on his plate. The Vice President should have done that long ago),” he said, adding that it would now be up to the President if he would still go over Robredo’s reports.
Meanwhile, Panelo said that nothing really changed in the three weeks that Robredo was drug czar. The Palace official made the comment after Pangilinan’s claimed that Robredo was fired because her stint as drug czar may boost her popularity.
Panelo dared Pangilinan to look at the briefers to check that there were still deaths happening despite Robredo taking the lead in the drug war.
“Ano ba yung sinasabi ni Kiko Pangilinan? Mula ba noong naging chair siya, meron ba nangyaring walang patayan? Tingnan niyo ang briefer. Ganoon pa rin, eh. It’s the same (What was Senator Pangilinan talking about? When the Vice President became the co-chair, were there lesser deaths? Just look at the briefers. Nothing changed. It’s the same),” he said.
The Palace official also said that Pangilinan could not just accept the fact that he was one of the reasons why Robredo was removed from her position in the ICAD.
Meanwhile, Panelo reiterated that the Palace was sincerely wishing for Robredo to succeed in her role as drug czar. However, he said that Robredo failed because she could not help herself.
“I really wanted her to succeed. From the beginning I have been defending her,” he said.
The Palace official also renewed his earlier claim that things would have been different had Robredo ignored the advice of her colleagues from the political opposition and just became her own person