Trust not needed for Robredo to work as ICAD co-chair – Panelo

Sofia Tomacruz
Trust not needed for Robredo to work as ICAD co-chair – Panelo
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo says the only qualities Vice President Robredo needs to fulfil her mandate are 'competence and creativity'

MANILA, Philippines – Despite having been appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to a top post leading his landmark campaign against illegal drugs, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo says the President’s trust in Vice President Leni Robredo was not necessary for her to perform her role as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

Panelo made the remark on Thursday, November 21, in response to former President Benigno Aquino III’s opinion that Duterte should not have appointed Robredo to lead anti-illegal drug efforts if he did not trust her.

“Her job in leading the agencies involved in the anti-illegal drug campaign requires competence and creativity. Trust comes into play only as regards the non-transmission of state secrets that imperils the safety of the Filipino people and the sovereignty of the country,” Panelo said.

Aquino earlier criticized Duterte’s logic behind appointing Robredo if he never trusted her to begin with, saying this was among the main criteria needed to appoint any individual to a post in government.

Balik tayo doon sa criteria kung bakit ka ba naga-appoint, bakit mo itinatalaga ang isang tao sa isang [posisyon]. Galing naman tayo doon eh. ‘Yung unang-una, kaya ng tao, pinagkakatiwalaan mong gagawin ‘yung trabaho, at naniniwala ka na gagawin niyang tama ‘yung trabaho. Kung wala lahat ‘yon, ‘wag mong itatalaga,” Aquino told reporters on Wednesday.

(Let’s revisit the criteria for appointing someone to a position. I did this before. First, the person is capable, you trust him or her to do the job, and you believe he or she can do it well. If none of these are present, don’t make the appointment.)

Why this matters. Panelo’s remarks further muddles Robredo’s appointment to her latest post in the Duterte administration. Apart from this, Malacañang’s latest statement further supports fears of an expected turnaround by Duterte, who wanted Robredo as part of ICAD to silence critics.

From first offering Robredo “full support” in her role, the Palace has now placed several obstacles in the way of Robredo’s mandate, which include restricting access to confidential intelligence and documents on the drug war. (READ: Robredo lost Cabinet post due to request for drug war docs, intel – Panelo)

The Vice President has likewise been second-guessing the means and bounds of her new role with the the possibility of Duterte firing her an ever present threat. As the sole appointing authority, only Duterte could grant Robredo the powers and limitations of the position.

Aside from these, Robredo now has to work with Duterte’s distrust, which she admit was “difficult to understand.”

Can Robredo still perform her role? Despite the setback, Robredo resolved to continue her work to reduce deaths in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

For Panelo, the Vice President should take no offense at this as her appointment never meant the President trusted her. He went as far to say Robredo should even be grateful for the “rare chance given to her, despite her being in the opposition.”

“Ms. Robredo must, however, understand that one’s election to the Vice Presidency does not automatically clothe the occupant with trustworthiness. Trust is earned. The missteps of the VP did not inspire confidence in the matter of keeping to oneself classified information,” Panelo said.

“She should not be bothered by the expressed lack of trust by the appointing power with respect to the confidentiality of state matters requiring secrecy. After all, she is tasked to help end the illegal drug trade in the country and not to get secret information of the government to share the same with her foreign and local peers,” he added.

Robredo initially served the Duterte administration as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, but she was forced to resign a few months into the job after the President shunned her from Cabinet meetings. Robredo cited the lack of executive support for her role, while Robredo being part of the opposition did not sit well with Duterte. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.