Duterte says he'll make Robredo drug czar for 6 months

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte claimed he will give Vice President Leni Robredo powers over all anti-drug activities for 6 months, smarting from her criticism of his crackdown on illegal drugs.

Duterte, speaking to new government officials on Monday, October 28, said he had instructed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to send Robredo a letter.

"As a matter of fact, I'm sending a letter to her through Secretary Medialdea. I will surrender my powers to enforce the law, ibigay ko sa Vice President, ibigay ko sa kanya ng 6 months," said Duterte. (I will give it to the Vice President, I'll give it to her for 6 months.)

It's not clear if the President is serious about the proposal or if he was only using it as a sarcastic jab against Robredo.

"Siya ang magdala, tingnan natin kung ano mangyari. Hindi ako makialam," he continued. (She'll take over, let's see what happens. I won't interfere.)

In an ambush interview, Duterte clarified that he specifically meant powers over all the government's anti-drug programs and initiatives.

"I'll hand it to you, full power sa (over) drugs. I'll give you 6 months, tingnan natin kung kaya mo (let's see if you can hack it)," he said.

"Sinabi ko sa kanya (I told her), I'm ready to concede to you powers that would cover all anti-drug activities by the government," Duterte continued.

Asked when he would turn over such powers to the Vice President, Duterte said, "Anytime."

"If she wants them now, call her. I can talk to her tonight. I will order tomorrow, everyone should follow her in the matter of drug issue," said the Chief Executive.

What Robredo said: The President's jab was apparently triggered by Robredo's remarks in an interview with Reuters.

Reuters quoted her as saying she wanted an end to the drug war and that the campaign, Duterte's banner program, was not working.

The Vice President later on clarified that she did not want to stop any crackdown on illegal drugs, but said its implementation needed fixing, given the number of lives lost and anomalies hounding the Philippine National Police (PNP), which implements the campaign.

Robredo, the most prominent opposition figure, has been a vocal critic of many of Duterte's policies, which led to her exit from the Cabinet in late 2016. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.