By Corina Oliquino
FilAm Star Correspondent

MANILA – Speaking to new government officials October 28, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will give Vice-president Leni Robredo powers over all anti-drug activities for six months.

It is not clear if Duterte is serious about his challenge, instructing Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea to send Robredo a letter.

“As a matter of fact, I’m sending a letter to her through Sec. Medialdea. I will surrender my powers to enforce the law, ibigay ko sa Vice-president, ibigay ko sa kanya ng six months,” Duterte told Rappler.

“Siya ang magdala, tingnan natin kung ano mangyari. Hindi ako makialam,” he added, noting in an ambush interview that he meant powers over all the government’s anti-drug programs and initiatives.

“I’ll hand it to you, full power sa drugs. I’ll give you 6 months, tingnan natin kung kaya mo,” he said.

“Sinabi ko sa kanya, I’m ready to concede to you powers that would cover all anti-drug activities by the government,” Duterte continued.

The comments follow Robredo’s statements in an interview with Reuters, saying she wanted an end to the drug war as the campaign was not working.

“We ask ourselves, ‘Why is this still happening?’ The President has already made very serious threats to drug syndicates, to drug lords … and yet it’s still very prevalent, so obviously, it’s not working,” Robredo said.

“We have seen a lot of police (officers) that have abused their powers and not been penalized so this is where the International Criminal Court could come in, if we do not show the world that we can take care of our own mess,” she added.

“The lives of our people are on the line and the dignity of our country is on the line but my first call is for our government to take care of the mess,” she concluded.

Later on, Robredo clarified that she did not want to stop any crackdown on illegal drugs but wanted the government to assess or “tweak” its implementation.

“Ang sinabi ko, dapat i-assess ng pamahalaan kung tama pa ba iyong strategy na ginagamit. Kasi kung mali na, kailangang i-tweak. ‘Di ba, Ka Ely, ang gustong sabihin ng tweak, himasin, o ibahin nang kaunti,” Robredo said in her radio program Biserbisyong Leni on DWIZ.

The VP was misled about the drug war
In a report by GMA News, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) on October 26, expressed “sadness” over Robredo’s remark that the war on drugs was a failure, claiming she was “misled” about the controversial campaign.

“It seems that up until now, the Vice-president is misled in understanding the anti-drug campaign. Authorities continue to address the domestic drug issues using a holistic, balanced and comprehensive approach,” the agency said in a statement.

“Though much of the agencies of the government have been diligent in performing their roles and responsibilities under the Philippine Anti-Illegal Drugs Strategy (PADS) which is institutionalized by virtue of Executive Order No. 66, series of 2018, there are still institutions in the government and sectors in the society that need to be informed on PADS,” it added, noting the anti-drugs campaign is guided by the PADS framework which highlights the importance of both drug supply and demand reduction initiatives.

DDB also noted that 997 local government units already have an “existing community-based rehabilitation program out of the 1,634 cities and municipalities in the country for Persons Who Use Drugs (PWUD) and a total of 179,152 PWUDs have benefited from these facilities.”

It also cited the Philippines’ successes in the global community, including its selection as chair of the Treatment and Rehabilitation Cluster of the ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters and the DDB executive director’s election as Chair of the Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies in Asia and the Pacific Region.

“It appears that VP Robredo is only looking at the one side of the campaign. While enforcement issues are more evident, we cannot discount the successes we have gained in the demand reduction part of the campaign,” the DDB said.