By Daniel Llanto
As the new anti-drug czar, Vice-president Leni Robredo was on her way to being named Cabinet member but President Duterte retracted after she asked for a copy of the narco-list of politicians that the President keeps like a closely-guarded state secret.
Previous statements from Duterte indicated that Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) would be given Cabinet rank, attending Monday’s Cabinet meeting with the President.
Duterte told reporters in Davao City last October 31 that Robredo should have a Cabinet rank if she becomes “anti-drug czar,” a designation that does not really exist.
“If I would take her in as the drug czar, I will have to first make her a Cabinet member. Then I will give her the marching orders and the specific functions,” he said in a press conference at a Catholic cemetery in Davao City.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo also issued statements stating that Robredo would be given a Cabinet-rank post if she accepts the President’s offer.
But Robredo was nowhere in sight during the November 18 regular Cabinet meeting. Duterte expressed concern that Robredo may disclose sensitive information discussed during Cabinet meetings, noting that she has been talking to various groups since she was named co-chair of ICAD.
Thus, Liberal Party Vice-president Erin Tañada was infuriated at the resistance from ranking members of ICAD to furnish Robredo a copy of the government’s list of high-value suspected drug lords.
“May dapat bang ikatakot o itinatago ang pamahalaangDuterte kaya itinatago nito anghawak naintelligence report kayVice-president Leni,” Tañada asked.
Tañada insisted that “depriving Robredo of needed intelligence report will render her blind in the performance of her duty. Paano mo lalabanan ang iligal na droga kung hindi mo alam kung sino ang iyong makakalaban? ”
Tañada challenged the Duterte government to “give what Robredo needs to make the war against drugs effective,” adding that “if the government won’t do it, then it is really setting up the Vice-president to fail.”
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Chief and ICAD chair Aaron Aquino refused to give Robredo a copy of the committee’s narco-list, which the Vice-president requested last week to help her craft new policies and strategies in the campaign against illegal drugs.
Aquino said the list contains confidential information, adding that not everyone should have a copy of the list because operations will be compromised if the list falls into wrong hands.
Even PNP OIC Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa opposed Robredo’s request, as he pointed out that ICAD was a mere collegial body that is supposed to be involved only in policy-making.
Gamboa addressed himself to Robredo: “You are supposed to review. Fine, if you want to review the law enforcement campaign. But would it really matter if you know who are on the list?”
“But law enforcement and prosecution or (in) Justice could be best left to those who know it – PNP, PDEA, NBI for law enforcement and DOJ for Justice,” he added.
In a TV interview, Duterte revealed other reasons for calling off Robredo’s Cabinet appointment.
“(Robredo) is not a member of the Cabinet. I have not appointed her as a Cabinet member. You know why? Early on she was talking right and left that she would talk to this and talk to that. In the Cabinet meeting, we talk about what’s happening eh kungmarinig nya yan dyan tapos dadaldal nya sa labas, so I did not make her a Cabinet member,” Duterte told GMA News.
Last month, Duterte offered the anti-drug czar post to Robredo after the Vice-president claimed that the government’s crackdown on narcotics should be reviewed and “tweaked”. Robredo accepted the offer and vowed to put an end to the supposed “senseless killings” in the controversial campaign.