President Rodrigo Duterte has designated Vice President Leni Robredo the co-chair of a committee against illegal drugs, according to a document released by Malacañang today.
The official document’s release comes exactly a week and a day after the president testily offered to yield his presidential law enforcement powers to his VP after Robredo slammed Duterte’s bloody drug war in an interview with Reuters.
The memorandum, issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and addressed to Vice President Leonor Gerona Robredo, read simply:
“Madam: I am pleased to transmit herewith your designation letter, signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as CO-CHAIRPERSON OF THE INTER-AGENCY COMMITTEE ON ANTI-ILLEGAL DRUGS.”
Whether or not Robredo would accept the presidential dare — issued on Monday — to become the country’s “drug czar” has been the subject of much back-and-forth over the past week.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo maintained the apparent taunt was indeed a legitimate offer to take over drug enforcement, showing reporters a text message he allegedly sent Robredo on Monday after Duterte issued his challenge.
Robredo, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that she would respond to the president’s challenge when she received a formal invitation to the hypothetical post. She also pointedly noted that if the administration’s anti-drug campaign weren’t a failure, then it wouldn’t be so keen to fob it off on her.
Now, that formal invitation appears to have come.
In a statement from the Malacañang Palace today, Panelo said that the VP’s official designation 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 reiterated that the signed document proved the “sincerity of the President” in making the offer, calling the designation “the highest position possible to battle the proliferation of dangerous drugs.”
Panelo added that Duterte’s “ultimate motivation” is the welfare of the Filipino people, “with the hope that the government be successful in combatting the atrocity caused by the use and trade of illegal narcotics, regardless of who greatly contributed to such success.”
As of press time, Robredo had yet to respond to the appointment letter.
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. He backed off that promise a year later, however, saying the six-month deadline was a mistake, and that he had underestimated the gravity of the drug problem.