Robredo accepts Duterte offer to be anti-drug body co-chair

Mara Cepeda
(UPDATED) 'Dahil kung mayroon akong maililigtas na kahit isang inosenteng buhay, ang sinasabi ng prinsipyo at puso ko ay kailangan ko itong subukan,' Vice President Leni Robredo says

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Vice President Leni Robredo accepts the anti-drug post offered by President Rodrigo Duterte on November 6, 2019. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Vice President Leni Robredo accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s designation for her to be co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

In accepting the offer, Robredo said her primary consideration was the chance to help end the string of deaths under Duterte’s violent war against drugs.

“Maraming nagpahayag ng pangamba na hindi sinsero ang alok, na ito ay isang trap na ang habol lang ay siraan at pahiyain ako…. Pero sa dulo, ang pinakamahalagang konsiderasyon para sa akin ay simple lang: kung ito ang pagkakataon para matigil ang patayan ng mga inosente at mapanagot ang mga kailangang managot, papasanin ko ito,” the Vice President said on Wednesday, November 6.

(A lot of people were worried that this offer was not sincere, that it is a trap aimed to destroy and humiliate me…. But in the end, the most important consideration for me was simple: if this is a chance for the killing of the innocent to stop and to hold the perpetrators responsible, I will take this on.)

“Kaya tinatanggap ko ang trabaho na ‘binibigay sa akin ng Pangulo (This is why I am accepting the job given to me by the President),” she added.

Robredo’s acceptance of the post is surprising, as it was only a day before when her spokesperson Barry Gutierrez scoffed at her designation as ICAD co-chairperson. He said it was an “empty” post that would leave Robredo with no full control over the government’s overall anti-drug campaign.

The Vice President herself doubted the President’s initial offer for her to be a “drug czar,” saying that by passing on to her the responsibility over the anti-drug campaign, Duterte seemed to be admitting that his violent drug war is a failure.

But Robredo changed her mind after Malacañang sent her a copy of her designation as ICAD co-chair, despite warnings she received the post may just be a “trap” designed for her to fail.

“At kahit sabihin na nating ang alok na ito ay pamumulitika lamang, at hindi naman talaga ako susundin ng mga ahensya, at gagawin nila ang lahat para hindi ako magtagumpay, handa akong tiisin ang lahat ng ito. Dahil kung mayroon akong maililigtas na kahit isang inosenteng buhay, ang sinasabi ng prinsipyo at puso ko ay kailangan ko itong subukan,” said the Vice President.

(Even if they say this offer is nothing but politics, that the agencies would not really follow me, and that they would do everything for me to fail, I am ready to endure all of that. Because if I would be able to save even just one life, my principles and my heart tell me I have to try.)

On October 31, an irked Duterte offered the post to Robredo after the Vice President said in a Reuters interview that the President’s violent drug war needs to be “tweaked” because it is “not working.”

The Vice President has long been a critic of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, which has seen deaths of at least 5,526 drug personalities in legitimate police operations alone. Human rights organizations estimate the total death toll at more than 27,000, to include those killed vigilante-style. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.