By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Leni Robredo will focus on reducing the supply of illegal drugs in the country as the new head of the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
“We have to look at the drug supply because if we will only run after the small-time traffickers, the drug problem will not end,” Robredo said in her Sunday radio program “BISErbisyong Leni.”
“I want to focus on how we (can) reduce the (drug) supply,” Robredo, who co-chairs the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), said.
Focusing on supply means decreasing the overall demand for illegal drugs and taking down big-time dealers in the country, the Vice President pointed out.
Robredo said she would meet with the members of the ICAD’s law enforcement cluster this week to discuss the matter.
“We need deep intelligence on this. I would know during the meeting the available intelligence, what we have accomplished and have not done yet,” she added.
Robredo set a self-imposed deadline by year-end to lay down her plans and programs that could help improve the anti-narcotics campaign.
She is also scheduled to meet with United Nations and US Embassy officials and other resource persons in the coming days apart from the ICAD’s enforcement cluster to consult them on strategies that could be used in the drug war.
Malacañang on Sunday said it has nothing to hide and maintained that the government records on the anti-drug operations are open to public scrutiny.
Robredo met last Friday with Senator Panfilo Lacson who shared his experience and knowledge about law enforcement in fighting the illegal drug trade before her first ICAD meeting.
“The drug problem is not only in the Philippines. Many of the illegal drugs come from other countries,” she stressed.
Robredo earlier expressed willingness to join the anti-drug operations conducted by law enfacement authorities.
The Palace expressed confidence that Vice President’s security team could adequately provide protection for Robredo if she joins the operations of anti-drug enforcement agents. He allayed concerns that Robredo’s presence might be an additional burden for the policemen involved in the anti-drug efforts, saying the Vice President has her own set of security team.
However, Lt. Col. Alex dela Cerna, Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group chief for Operations, said the nature of the job of Robredo as co-chairperson of ICAD does not require her to join police operations.
“There is no need because the nature of the position of Vice President Leni Robredo is a policy-maker as co-chairperson of the ICAD,” said dela Cerna, unless there is an instruction from the Chief PNP or the President for her to join any police operation.
Robredo said on Sunday it was her personal decision to accept President Duterte’s offer to lead the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and against the advice of her partymates and allies.
“Almost everyone in the party is against it,” Robredo said.
The Vice President shared that her three daughters—Aika, Tricia, and Jillian—were also against her decision, but they later supported her when she accepted the ICAD post.
“My children know how hard-headed I am so even if they were against it, they were no longer surprised,” she said.
While she admitted drug syndicates may threaten their security, Robredo said she would not allow this to get in the way of her job.
“Of course they are worried about my safety, but for me I’m given the chance to contribute, especially in the drug war. I will do everything I can,” she said.
Mandatory drug testing
The House of Representatives is currently reviewing the 2008 Supreme Court decision declaring as unconstitutional the mandatory drug testing among public officials.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said they are taking a second look at the SC decision to come up with a new legislation that would fully support President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.
“We are carefully reviewing the decision of the Supreme Court and we will craft a new legislation that will not be declared by the SC as unconstitutional,” he said.
Robredo, as the country’s drug czar, found an ally in Gabriela Party-List regarding her stance on the huge death toll in the administration’s ongoing war against illegal drugs.
“Gabriela Women’s Party supports VP Leni Robredo in her call to stop Oplan Tokhang and in adopting zero killing approach towards putting an end to illegal drug trade,” the pro-women’s group said in a statement on Sunday.
“We are one with the women and children widowed and orphaned by the drug war in calling for justice,” added the group, which is represented by second-term solon Arlene Brosas in the House of Representatives. (With reports from Genalyn Kabiling, Aaron Recuenco, Ellson Quismorio, and Charissa Luci-Atienza)