Vice President Leni Robredo today questioned why President Rodrigo Duterte appointed her drug czar in the first place after the notoriously trash-talking leader said he didn’t trust her, and accused the VP — without offering proof — of inviting the United Nations to investigate the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs.
The UN Human Rights Council is already in the president’s doghouse for its investigation into the Duterte government for human rights violations that may have been committed under the auspices of the drug war, with the president saying last night that the alleged betrayal was why he didn’t want to make Robredo a member of his Cabinet.
“The problem with Robredo, right after she was appointed, she began talking publicly about inviting the [U.N.] Human Rights Commission. She was talking to the United Nations. She wants to talk to the European– and she said a whole lot of other things. If that’s the case, I cannot appoint her as a Cabinet member,” the president said in English and Filipino.
“If that is the way her mouth behaves, there can never be a position for her,” he continued, saying he expected loyalty from his Cabinet members. “The problem is this: I cannot trust her not only because– not only because she is with the opposition. I do not trust her because I do not know her.”
Robredo responded to the remarks in a press conference of her own today, denying the president’s accusations, and asking why he hadn’t discussed his misgivings directly with her.
“When he says I invited a [U.N.] prosecutor, that’s fake news. And the president shouldn’t believe in fake news,” Robredo said in English and Filipino. “It’s so easy to check, and the only people I’ve met are from the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crimes and the different agencies of the U.S. embassy. They’re all I spoke with; I don’t know a U.N. prosecutor, or speak to one, or invite one [to see me].”
She added that, furthermore, she didn’t really care whether her new job at the ICAD was a Cabinet position or not, rightly noting that the post was offered by Duterte himself, not something that she sought out.
“I didn’t ask to be a co-chair of the ICAD. I was appointed here. So for me, whatever job that was given to me, I will do it, but it doesn’t matter whether this is a Cabinet post or not,” she said. “Whatever is expected of me, I will do it.”
Robredo also wondered aloud why Duterte gave her the job when he didn’t trust her.
“He should speak directly with me. I’m a straight talker. If he doesn’t want me here in the first place, why did he appoint me?” she asked. “If he doesn’t like me, if he made a mistake in appointing me, he should say it. I’m very easy to talk to.”
Duterte had effectively dared Robredo to take on the ICAD post after he was offended by her public criticisms of the country’s drug war, which has left thousands dead. Robredo’s acceptance surprised many, even her allies, who had told her that the job was a trap meant to “destroy and humiliate” her.