Vice President Leni Robredo said Friday she would not allow herself to be used as a scapegoat for the Duterte administration’s shortcomings in its war on drugs.
“VP Leni is always willing to help before and now. If the President is asking for help when it comes to [the issue of the] ‘drug war,’ say it in a formal way, and not through text and statement to the media,” Robredo’s spokesman, Barry Gutierrez said, referring to the President’s challenge that she take charge of the war on drugs.
“What she will not stand for is being made a scapegoat for all the shortcomings of the drug war for the past three and a half years,” he added.
“If they are now being called to account for their failure to deliver, they should not blame VP Leni for it,” he said.
In 2016, Robredo tried to get involved with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and other agencies to offer solutions on how to improve efforts against drugs, but none of her suggestions were acted upon, and she was excluded from further discussions soon after, Gutierrez said.
President Rodrigo Duterte egged Robredo to take his offer to become the administration’s drug czar
until the end of his term, saying she would become famous.
READ: Rody dares Leni to take on drug czar role for 6 months
“Tell her to accept it. She’ll get famous for it. I was not able to do it, maybe she can,” President Duterte told reporters Thursday night in a press conference after he visited his parents’ resting place at the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Davao.
Should Robredo accept the offer, she will have a Cabinet secretary rank and she will be at the helm of all anti-drug related agencies, Duterte said.
The President said there was no need to put the offer in writing.
“I will just make her a Cabinet member. Then, all drug cases and all things, matters in connection with drugs, that’s for you [Robredo] until the end of my term,” Duterte said.
The President made the offer after Robredo said his drug war needed some “tweaking and assessment.”
Robredo said that Duterte’s offer was an admission that he had failed to fulfill his promise to eradicate the drug menace.
“If there’s no failure, why delegate it to me? Because you will only delegate the tasks you cannot do,” she said.
Duterte, in response, said that she might have a “better method of dealing with the problem.”
“If you criticize, you must have the answer. If you question, you must have the answer. Don’t bring any problem to me,” he said.
The two leaders belong to the opposing side of the fence, as Robredo leads the Liberal Party.
Robredo used to be part of the Cabinet as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council until her resignation in December 2016.
Robredo cited “major differences” with Duterte, and revealed that she was directed to “desist from attending all Cabinet meetings.”
“Your directive to ‘desist from attending all Cabinet meetings’ has effectively made it impossible for me to do my job. Remaining in your Cabinet has become untenable,” she wrote in her resignation letter.
Robredo also said that she had clashed with Duterte over his policies, including the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Thursday reported that 14,922 out of 42,045 barangays in the country are declared cleared from illegal drugs from July 2016 to September 2019 under the Duterte administration’s continuing anti-illegal drugs campaign.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said these barangays have reached drug-cleared status after receiving a certification by members of the Oversight Committee on Barangay Drug-Clearing Program.
The Oversight Committee, chaired by PDEA, is composed of provincial representatives of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Philippine National Police, Department of Health and local government units.
Before declaring that a barangay is free from illegal drug activities, the committee must convene and validate the non-availability of drug supply in the area and the absence of drug transit activity, clandestine drug laboratory and chemical warehouse, marijuana cultivation site, drug den, drug pushers, and users.
“Once cleared, we monitor newly declared drug-free barangays to ensure that they will maintain their status. All our efforts will go to waste if we allow the resurgence of illegal drug activities in these areas,” Aquino said.
Aquino said PDEA aims to clear 18,712 drug-affected barangays by 2022.
READ: Robredo clarifies drug war yarn, opts for ‘review’