In a letter dated Oct. 31 but released to the media on Tuesday, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea informed Vice President Leni Robredo that she was appointed co-chairperson of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs, or ICAD.
The STAR/Krizjohn Rosales
Powers, limits of 'drug czar' position still unclear, Robredo spokesperson points out
(Philstar.com) - November 6, 2019 - 2:48pm

MANILA, Philippines —  Although it is still unclear what her powers will be, Vice President Leni Robredo is stepping into the role of 'drug czar' to stop killings linked to the government's "war on drugs", her spokesperson said Wednesday.

Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, who said Tuesday that he doubts the actual position of co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs is allowed by the executive order that created the panel, said the details of the new post will still need to be ironed out.

Under Executive Order No. 15, ICAD is chaired by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the government's lead agency in its campaign against illegal drugs. 

Robredo's letter to the Office of the President says that she is accepting the designation "to lead the Government's efforts against illegal drugs" but does not mention a specific position.

"What happens in the next few days, actually, that is up to the administration. We will see if they were serious about it," he said.

Gutierrez said that the vice president will focus on stopping the killing of innocent people and holding accountable those behind alleged abuses in the governments "war on drugs."

He added that Robredo had set aside politics and the "apparent insincerity" of the Palace so she can "focus on what she can do as an advocate whose concern is our people’s welfare."

Gutierrez said that Robredo’s priority in the coming days is to meet with the members of the inter-agency committee.

ICAD has representatives with the rank of undersecretary or assistant secretary from the following at least 20 government agencies.

Cabinet meeting?

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told CNN Philippines in a phone interview that the next step after Robredo’s acceptance of the post is for her to go to the Palace so she may be told of the parameters of her powers.

Panelo said: “She is welcome. We have a Cabinet meeting today. She can even join us today.”

The president's spokesman insisted that there is no need for a formal invitation. He said that because Robredo said she is accepting the post, she is already part of the Cabinet and is free to join the meeting.

He said that if Robredo insists on getting a formal invitation, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will work on it.

Robredo was briefly Housing secretary but was told through a text message from Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. in December 2016 "to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings starting December 5."

Gutierrez said that they have yet to receive an official invitation for Robredo join the Cabinet meeting, reiterating that invitations and other important matters should not be coursed through press conferences but through formal documents.

Panelo, for his part, said that only the president would know the parameters of her new task as a drug czar.

But Gutierrez said that whatever her new task would be, Robredo “would not back out, which is to be able to take action in order to fix what she perceives to be shortcomings in the drug war.” 

Robredo announced in a televised press conference earlier Wednesday that she is accepting President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to become the co-chairperson of the Inter-agency Committee on Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

She said in Filipino: “Even if the offer may be for politicking, and they will do everything to doom me to fail, I will push through. Because if I can save even just one innocent life, my heart and principles say that I should try.”

Police say more than 7,000 who resisted arrest have been killed since Duterte launched his deadly narcotics crackdown — a far cry from rights groups' estimate that pegs drug-related fatalities at 27,000. —  Kristine Joy Patag

BARRY GUTIERREZ DRUG CZAR LENI ROBREDO SALVADOR PANELO
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