Robredo writes Duterte: Make my role clear so I can work

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Facing the threat of being axed from a highly politicized and ambiguous post, Vice President Leni Robredo wrote President Rodrigo Duterte a letter to clarify her mandate as Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) co-chair so that she could contribute to his landmark anti-illegal drugs campaign.

Robredo made the announcement facing reporters Wednesday, November 20, after meeting with officials of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) at their headquarters.

"I wrote to the President even before the presscon (press conference). I said he needs to clarify the mandate," Robredo said in Filipino, referring to the late-night press conference held by Duterte in Malacañang on Tuesday where he said that he did not trust Robredo.

Why this matters: The letter was the culmination of the Vice President's frustration over her vague mandate as ICAD co-chair. As the sole appointing authority, only Duterte could grant Robredo the powers and limitations of the position.

Since her appointment, Robredo has been second-guessing what she could and could not do. After she was earlier seemingly given weeks to overhaul the campaign, the President threatened he would fire Robredo if she shared "confidential information" to foreign entities.

She disclosed that the PDEA had invited her for a confidential briefing Wednesday morning, but she begged off attending, fearing that the President and his allies would use it against her.

Working with distrust: Reacting to Duterte's distrust comment, Robredo said she found this "difficult to understand" but she would continue to work wholeheartedly anyway in her mission to reduce deaths in the campaign.

"Mahirap intindihin na walang tiwala sa akin. Pero, again, pareho ang sinasabi ko. The mere fact na binigyan ako ng trabaho, gagawin ko nang buong puso," Robredo said on Wednesday.

(It's difficult to understand why he doesn't trust me. But then again, what I'll say is the same. The mere fact that I was given a job to do, I will do it with my whole heart.)

A message to leave? While puzzled and even admittedly "hurt" by Duterte's declared distrust of her the night before, Robredo said she would rather focus on her job as there was so much to be done.

Asked by a reporter whether she read the President's pronouncement as an indication that he wanted her out, Robredo responded in a daring tone that the Chief Executive should just say it clearly to her.

"Kung ayaw na niya, kung nagkamali siya sa pag-appoint sa akin at gusto niyang bawiin, sabihin lang (If he doesn't want me any longer, if he made a mistake in appointing me and that he now wants out, he should just tell me)," Robredo said.

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 she was banned from attending Cabinet meetings. Duterte had cited his discomfort in having someone from the opposite side of the political fence in his Cabinet.  – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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