By Genalyn Kabiling and Raymund Antonio
President Duterte declared Tuesday night that he cannot trust Vice President Leni Robredo, whom he recently appointed as co-drug czar, and would not let an opposition leader be part of his Cabinet.
Despite his lack of trust, the President said he would not fire Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs (ICAD) but she will only be on a “need-to-know” category in terms of vital government information on the drug war.
Duterte said Robredo can give “directions” and “guidance” to the member-agencies involved in the anti-drug campaign.
“But as ICAD [co-chair], you can direct. Sabi ko you can give the directions, you can give the guidance. But you do not have to go there and waggle inside the law enforcement process,” Duterte said.
The President said the actions of Robredo, including planning to invite human rights probers and talking to certain individuals critical of his war on drugs, were “not inspiring,” prompting him to decide against appointing her to the Cabinet.
“She invited even ‘yung mga (the) prosecutors ng Human Rights commission which we rebuked. Bakit niya papuntahin dito ‘yung prosecutors (Why does she want the prosecutors to go here) and all, observers? She was (already) grandstanding na, eh. It was – it was like a carnival up there. She was talking right and left dito ganun,” he said.
“I cannot appoint her as a Cabinet member. If that is the way her mouth behaves, there can never be a position for her,” he said during a press conference in the Palace Tuesday night.
“I cannot trust her not be – not only because – not only ha – so ‘pag nag – not only because she is with the opposition. I do not trust her because I do not know her,” he added.
Robredo, however, defended her consultations with various foreign organizations, noting the drug problem is a “transnational” issue.
“We can’t constrict the supply if we will have no cooperation with other countries, so our partnership with other foreign governments is important,” she said.
“My meetings with, for example the UN, US government… it has been a long-time partnerships with government agencies, even before I came in.,” she added.
While there is resentment over her appointment as ICAD co-chair, Robredo, who is also the leader of opposition, said that’s “not my problem.”
“Kung wala silang tiwala, bakit nila ko dinesignate (If they don’t trust me, why did they designate me)?” she asked.
“For me, it’s their problem. Their assessment of me, that’s their problem. It’s not my problem. I just do the job given to me,” she said.
Despite lack of trust, Robredo said she will do what she can to fulfill her tasks in leading the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign. She shares the ICAD position with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino.
“Iyong sa akin lang, pagtanggap ko ng trabaho, walang – hindi nagma-matter kung Cabinet post iyon o hindi. Basta sa akin, pagtanggap ko ng trabaho, talagang ano na, full steam ahead (For me, when I accepted the job, it didn’t matter if it was a Cabinet post or not. When I took the job, it was really full steam ahead),” she said in a media interview.
“I started working on the first day of my job. I would just let them if they don’t agree yet on… what is really my assignment. I’ll just do everything I can, whether I’m part of the Cabinet or not, she said in Filipino.
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Security clearance not automatic
While Robredo remains ICAD co-chair, Duterte maintained that Robredo does not automatically have security clearance to obtain classified documents just because she is the Vice President.
“Need-to-know ka lang (You are limited to need-to-know),” he said. If she asks for something, give her the half of it. If it’s classified information, there is no need for her to know,” he added.
Duterte expressed concern that if she joins the Cabinet, Robredo might spill state secrets to other people which might be used for politicking in the elections.
“Alam mo sabi ko, election is a noble thing. But politics is always dirty, especially if you are the other side. Huwag mo na lang akong bolahin… Kung anong mapulot mo dito balang araw – two years na lang, and she wants to aspire for the presidency,” he said.
He also accused Robredo of being a “scatterbrain,” citing her penchant to “talking right and left.”
“She was grandstanding na, eh. It was like a carnival up there. She was talking right and left dito ganun. Presidente ka, mag-ganun ka? You will just place the Republic of the Philippines in jeopardy. Alam mo bakit? It’s your penchant. Knee-jerk ka eh,” he said.