President Rodrigo Duterte warned Vice President Leni Robredo, whom he appointed this month as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) not to reveal classified matters of the government that would endanger the security of the state.
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The President added he would fire Robredo as drug czar should she share secret details with others after the Vice President met with the officials from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Monday in connection with her new role as drug czar.
Duterte made the pronouncement over GMA News when asked regarding Robredo’s meeting with the UNODC, community-based advocacy groups and U.S. Embassy officials to discuss the drug problem in the country.
Earlier, Robredo said there is a need to tap other stakeholders and provide a platform for those who want to help fight illegal drugs.
At the same time, Robredo said there was no hidden agenda behind her request for more information about the government’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs.
She gave the assurance to members of the law enforcement cluster of the ICAD during a meeting on Thursday, the committee she co-chairs with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino.
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“I assured them that my request for information is not to ghost-hunt,” she told reporters after the meeting, referring to the leadership of the Philippine National Police.
“[It is] just so I know where to start, what is the baseline.”
She explained that seeing the full picture of what happened in the past three years would prevent a repeat of the problems that confront the previous implementation of the anti-illegal drug campaign.
“The (PNP) leadership was very cooperative. Actually, they reiterated their support, they reiterated that if there are data that we need or have to be clarified, they are open to providing that,” she told reporters, adding she would allow concerned agencies to conduct their own internal cleansing and not waste her time “ghost hunting.”
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“We are returning to the agencies the responsibility to… clean their own institutions,” she said. “We are looking for ways of moving forward because we really do not have much time.”
Earlier, Interior Undersecretary for external and legislative affairs Ricojudge Echiverri expressed reservations on the release of the drug war data to Robredo.
Among the information the Vice President was seeking was a list of those involved in the deadly police operations that claimed the lives of thousands of suspects who allegedly fought back against police.
Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon earlier said they would request for access to such information from ICAD now that Robredo was the co-chair.
Duterte said “there’s a limit to that, saying “I know that she’s a lawyer and she has other advisers... There are certain matters that should be kept with the government, that classified matters cannot be shared. Once [she does] that, she’s out, I would fire her. Because you jeopardized the security of the state.”
Also during the TV interview, Duterte admitted that he was suffering from illnesses due to old age.
“Lahat ng sakit, nandito na sa ‘kin kasi matanda na ako... Kung sabihin mo, ‘Okay ka ba presidente? Are you in the best of health?’ Of course not. I am old, life has begun to take its toll on my health. At kung sabihin mong may sakit ako, meron. You name it, I have it. Para wala na lang debate,” he said.
The President, who was supposed to take a three-day leave last week held a dialogue with farmers in North Cotabato on Friday.
He also went to Eastern Samar to condole with the orphaned families of the soldiers killed in a clash with NPA rebels.
Meanwhile, Malacanang said it was still too early to say if Robredo was doing a good job in her new appointment.
In an interview over CNN, Panelo instead urged the public to support her new task, saying it was too early to assess Robredo’s performance as co-chairperson of ICAD.
“My assessment on everybody is you are in a hurry. The Vice President just started her new job,” he told CNN Philippines.
“Give her the chance, let her perform her job, then let’s assess afterward,” the Palace spokesman said.
He said it would take a little time to comprehend with her new role since the fight against illegal drugs was a serious matter, adding that Robredo needed to test the waters first.
The Vice President accepted the President’s offer to co-chair ICAD until the end of their term in 2022.
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“You have to know the situation first. You’ll weigh the situation if you need to meet the people there first,” he said.
“Then you’ll ask for the advice of experts before you make a move. She’s doing it right,” he added.
The Palace spokesman said Robredo’s move to meet with members of the FBI, United States Drug Enforcement Agency, and the United Nations office on drugs and crimes was one of the steps to learn on how to deal with illegal drugs in the country.
“This is educational. She doesn’t know anything about it. So, that is the right step – knowing what are the facts. If you are in the position, how would you work if you are not aware of the situation in your turf,” he added.
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