'Nanghihinayang': Lacson says Robredo was on right track as drug czar

MANILA, Philippines – The President had given, and the President had taken away, there's no need to explain it, but Senator Panfilo Lacson said he finds it a pity that Vice President Leni Robredo was fired two weeks into her job as drug czar, because he thought she was doing it justice.

"Nanghihinayang ako (I feel sorry at the loss). I'd say she was on the right track in addressing the problem of drugs," Lacson told reporters on Monday, November 25, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte sacked Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

Reiterating his earlier statement, Lacson said: "It is my opinion na (that) VP was doing the right things. 'Yan ang talagang gagawin, makikonsulta ka sa nakakaalam, 'yan talaga ginawa niya (That's really what ought to be done, you consult with those in the know, that's really what she did)."

One of the first things Robredo did after accepting the post on November 6 was consult with Lacson, who used to be chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

During her 19 days on the job, Robredo met with representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US State Department, the US Agency for International Development, as well as the individual agencies that comprise the ICAD, including the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the PNP.

She also visited communities plagued by illegal drugs in Navotas and Quezon City, and several rehabilitation centers including one in Bataan province.

Based on these, Robredo submitted two reports to the Office of the President, fulfilling a requirement stated in Executive Order (EO) No. 15, which created the ICAD.

Duterte however said that he could not "trust" Robredo with the job even if he did offer it to her on October 31, apparently as a dare after she said that his war on drugs needed "tweaking" because it was "not working."

'Untenable'

The President denied the Vice President access to classified information on the country's illegal drug problem, including a list of "high-value targets" in the drug trade.

Lacson maintained that Robredo had the right to ask for that list.

Duterte also declined to answer Robredo when she sought clarification on the scope and limits of her job, telling her instead to just check EO No. 15, which does not, in fact, factor in an ICAD co-chair besides the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Robredo had shared the ICAD top post with PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino.

As Lacson said on Thursday, November 21, this left Robredo's position "untenable," and that it was just a tad short of the President firing her.

In announcing Robredo's removal as ICAD co-chair, Malacañang said it was only in response to the Liberal Party's statement that Duterte might as well fire her for making her job virtually impossible, as well as her own statement that if the President wanted her out, he should just tell her "to her face."

In the end, Malacañang did not directly tell Robredo that she was fired – she found out through the Palace's statements to the media.

Duterte ought to have spoken with Robredo, and that could have cleared things up between the country's two top officials, Lacson said.

"'Pag binigyan ka ng trabaho, it's incumbent sa nagbigay ng trabaho at tumanggap ng trabaho na mag-usap agad kasi bago ang position. Hindi sana bale kung defined sa isang EO or defined [ang] puwestong gagampanan. Pero bago ang position, 'co-chair' na hindi nagsy-sync sa EO 15. So all the more dapat nakapag-usap para liwanagin ano extent and limitation ng authority," he explained.

(If you're given a job, it's incumbent upon the one who gave the job and the one who accepted it to talk right away because the position is new. Never mind if the job is defined by an EO. But the position is new, a "co-chair" that does not sync with EO 15. So all the more they should have talked to clarify the extent and limitation of the authority.)

No need to justify 

But in the end, the senator said nothing requires Duterte to justify his decision.

"'Di kailangan. Walang batas na nagsasabing kailangan i-justify ng nag-appoint ang pag-remove. Lack of confidence, lack of trust – sufficient reason para matanggal," Lacson added.

(It's not necessary. No law says the appointing power should justify a removal. Lack of confidence, lack of trust – sufficient reason to remove someone.)

As for Robredo's plan to publicize what she discovered about the anti-drug campaign during her brief time as ICAD co-chair, Lacson said the Vice President must justify doing so. Otherwise, he does not think it is necessary.

"Depende sa ano'ng isisiwalat niya. If it is to destroy or impede ang anti-illegal drugs campaign, huwag naman sana. Pero kung natuklasan niya para ma-enhance ang fight against illegal drugs, then by all means. Pero kung may nakita siyang pagkakamali that would point to several persons that could be held criminally liable, dapat noong nasa position siya," he added.

(It depends on what she will divulge. If it is to destroy or impede the anti-illegal drugs campaign, I hope she desists. But if it's insights she gained to enhance the fight against illegal drugs, then by all means. But if she saw violations that would point to several persons that could be held criminally liable, she should have done it while she was in the position.) – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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