Vice President Leni Robredo today accepted with gusto, and more than a little defiance, President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment to be co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs.
The announcement comes a day after Duterte formally offered the post to Robredo, who had drawn the president’s ire — and a dare to take on the job herself — after she criticized his bloody drug war in an interview with Reuters over a week ago.
In press statement made in Malacañang today delivered entirely in Filipino, Robredo said that she had indeed received the letter yesterday from the president tasking her to lead the campaign on illegal drugs for the remaining two and a half years of the Duterte’s term.
“Many have expressed that the offer is not sincere, that it was a trap whose main motive is to destroy and humiliate me. Many advised that I should refuse the offer because it was merely passing on the responsibility of the failures of the drug war. Many have said that the administration only needed someone to blame,” Robredo said, adding that her criticisms hadn’t been a ploy to seek a position in the administration.
“In the end though, my greatest consideration is simple: if it is a chance to stop the killing of the innocents and bring to justice those who are responsible, then I will carry [the burden].
“I accept the job to which the president is appointing me.”
She went on to say that her fight against illegal drugs will involve prosecuting corrupt officials, including a group of policemen who allegedly stole hundreds of kilos of meth during a drug raid in Pampanga in 2013.
Robredo added that while the offer was clearly a politically calculated move by Duterte, and that she expects the anti-drug agency to do everything in its power to ensure she fails, she nonetheless take on the challenge.
“If I can save one innocent life, then my principles demand that I should attempt the effort,” she said. “If [the president] thinks that I will remain silent, then he is wrong.”
Robredo said that over the past week, people have asked her if she is ready for the job. Flipping the question on its head, she said, “My question is: are you ready for me?”
Yesterday, Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the VP’s official designation, which he said was “the highest position” in the anti-drug campaign, would give her control over drug enforcement agencies and offices, including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Philippine National Police, until June 30, 2022.
He also disputed claims that the move was politically motivated, insisting that Duterte’s “ultimate motivation” was the welfare of the Filipino people.
Duterte was responsible for launching the country’s bloody, internationally condemned drug war in 2016, and thousands upon thousands of drug suspects have allegedly been summarily executed since at the hands of members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The president had vowed to put an end to the country’s drug problem within three to six months, but reneged on that promise a year later, saying he had underestimated the gravity of the drug problem.