The Palace hit back at former President Benigno Aquino III Thursday for questioning President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision not to give Vice President Leni Robredo, the newly appointed anti-drug czar, a Cabinet post because he does not trust her.
READ: Leni wavers on ICAD role
“Lest we forget, the drug problem ballooned in magnitude in his time, obviously due to his neglect in countering this evil that is putting this country into the precipice of a generational destruction,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“The Philippines has been plagued in the past with petty, divisive and parochial politicians. Fortunately, change has arrived with President Duterte having the interest of the Filipino people foremost in his mind as we battle against the dreaded and destructive evil that is destroying the basic fabric of society,” Panelo said.
Aquino on Wednesday remarked that normally, one would appoint a person that he or she trusts.
But Panelo said Aquino would be better off focusing on his criminal case than involving himself with the drug menace, which he ignored during his six-year presidency.
At the same time, Panelo said Robredo should not be bothered if the President said he does not trust her with confidential matters.
Robredo’s election to the vice presidency “does not automatically clothe her with trustworthiness,” he said.
“Trust is earned. The missteps of the VP did not inspire confidence in the matter of keeping to oneself classified information,” he said.
The President said Tuesday night he could not trust Robredo with a Cabinet position and confidential information on the drug menace because she is part of the opposition and would likely to jeopardize state secrets.
READ: ‘Missteps’ cost Leni rank
He said this after appointing her as co-chair of the 21-member Inter-Agency Committee Against Illegal Drugs (ICAD), which has been executing government efforts to combat the illegal drug trade.
Panelo said: “Her job in leading the agencies involved in the anti-illegal drug campaign requires competence and creativity. Trust comes into play only as regards the non-transmission of state secrets that imperils the safety of the Filipino people and the sovereignty of the country.”
The Palace official earlier said Robredo’s insistence on getting classified information and talking with “enemies of the state” or personalities critical of the administration’s anti-drug campaign did not sit well with President Duterte.
“Since she will not be given access to privileged communication, she should not be bothered by the expressed lack of trust by the appointing power with respect to the confidentiality of state matters requiring secrecy,” Panelo said.
“After all, she is tasked to help end the illegal drug trade in the country and not to get secret information of the government to share the same with her foreign and local peers,” he added.
For her part, Robredo urged President Duterte to simply let her know if he no longer wants her to ICAD co-chair.
“If he does not want me here, just tell me directly. I am easy to talk to. If he thinks that he has erred in appointing me and wanted to revoke it, just say so,” Robredo said.
She said she wrote the President to clarify her mandate as anti-drug czar.
At least two senators believe Robredo is entitled to know information about high value targets (HVT) and related matters in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said that since Robredo is the second-highest official of the country, she is entitled to get the data on HVT even if she was not appointed as co-chair of ICAD.
Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima also questioned the Duterte administration’s refusal to share intelligence information with Robredo.
“We see a lot of duplicity here. What vicious political game is Duterte and his men playing this time?” said De Lima.
Lacson said the Vice President as ICAD co-chair is involved in policy formulation. Because of this, there is the need to give her even the basic information about illegal drugs.
“Because if she sees it, studies the list and gives her policy direction, she said there is a shifting from [looking into] the demand side to the supply side. And that’s important,” said Lacson.
“Because when you say high value, they are more on the supply side. These are the suppliers. These are the big-time drug traffickers. And it’s better to give her access [to information] since she was appointed as ICAD co-chair,” Lacson added.
Lacson said Robredo would be more effective in formulating policies if she is provided more information.
“She is the one formulating the policy. How are you going to be efficient or effective in formulating policies if you lack information? Remember, the more information you have access to, the better because you have a big responsibility to do.”
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino had earlier questioned the need to provide Robredo with such information, saying it is well outside of their mandate as co-chair of ICAD.
READ: Drug list for Leni’s eyes only—PNP
Robredo on Thursday maintained that a holistic approach must be taken to fight illegal drugs.
“Since this a social illness of society, we are part of the reason why this is happening, and that we must also be a part of the solution,” she said.
“When I assumed office, I have already said that I believe the enemy here is drugs and not the people,” she added.
She said rehabilitation is the solution to illegal drugs.
Central Luzon police director BGen. Rhodel Sermonia, meanwhile, urged Robredo to make Central Luzon the pilot-region in the committee’s nationwide effort to institutionalize the creation of more community-based rehabilitation and reformation facilities as long-term response to illegal drugs menace.
Robredo was the guest of honor in the 3rd Anniversary of Bahay Pagbabago Community-Based Reformation Center in Dinalupihan, Bataan.
Sermonia, who is the chief architect of the establishment of Bahay Pagbabago Reformation Center in Bataan four years ago, said that with Robredo in ICAD, the committee can now steer the course of the country’s anti-illegal drugs drive towards a more balanced approach between aggressive hunts for high-value targets and the institutionalization of the creation of more recovery and wellness programs facilities for surrendered drug addicts. With PNAREAD: ‘Most drugs in PH from China’READ: Aquino debunks VP’s claim China top drugs sourceREAD: Rody to Leni: Leak data, you're fired
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