By inviting the leader of the opposition, Vice President Leni Robredo, to head his administration’s anti-drug campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte has exhibited an openness to new ideas and a willingness to work with others to come to grips with a recalcitrant social menace. It is an example worthy of emulation, especially among some of his allies, who may see this as just another opportunity to snipe at the opposition.
In her first week as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), the vice president has enunciated a guiding principle that the anti-drug war can be won without killing thousands of drug suspects—especially if some of them turn out to be innocent.
Kian delos Santos and Reynaldo de Guzman—minors killed in questionable drug operations in 2017—are just two among many cases that inform the vice president’s call.
In the last week, she has also spoken to representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Community-Based Rehab Alliance, a network of organizations both from the private and public sectors, to push for "balanced, people-centered, humane, and evidence-based solutions" to the country's drug problem.
Given that the President had invited the vice president to lead ICAD to bring in a fresh perspective, the search for new ideas should hardly be a subject of criticism.
Yet, some of the President’s allies continued to take an adversarial approach, as if they were not on the same team now. One urged the vice president to “stop talking and start working” and criticized her for “mouthing ideas and criticism of how the campaign is being implemented.”
The statement seems odd and out of step with the President’s stated reason for bringing Robredo into the Cabinet in the first place.
As the President’s spokesman said upon Robredo’s appointment: “The President was thinking... she must have some ideas in her mind that would effectively implement the drug war. When you’re saying that it’s ineffective, you must have some ideas to make it effective.”
It hardly seems helpful, then, to castigate the vice president for doing what she was precisely brought in to do—try out new ideas, especially given the President’s own recent admission that the drug problem was worsening, despite his war on drugs.
Formulating new approaches and talking about them—those qualify, too, as “working.”
We welcome the President’s moves to get everyone working together to combat the drug menace. Those who offer only lip service to this notion of strength in unity might be well advised to stop flapping those lips for once.