VIce President Leni Robredo may just be allowed to enter the Palace and attend Cabinet meetings if the drug campaign is on the agenda.
Michael Varcas
‘No drug agenda, no Cabinet invite for Robredo’
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Phillipines — While Vice President Leni Robredo has been appointed to a Cabinet rank, presidential aide and now Sen. Christopher Go revealed yesterday that the new anti-drug czar cannot attend the monthly Cabinet meetings unless the campaign against illegal drugs is on the agenda.

“If the agenda has nothing to do with drugs… (she is not invited) to attend the Cabinet meeting,” Go said in a chance interview at Malacañang yesterday.

Duterte and Robredo have not met since the Vice President was appointed to co-chair the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD). Neither has a schedule been set, Go said, even if he claims that he has no authority to speak on behalf of the Chief Executive.

“They have not talked… In the Cabinet now, I know there are no plans yet to invite and include (her during the meetings of) the cabinet,” Go said.

Robredo may just be allowed to enter the Palace and attend Cabinet meetings if the drug campaign is on the agenda.

Since she assumed the post last Nov. 4, Robredo has met with members of the ICAD, which she co-chairs with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Aaron Aquino.

While Malacañang has been saying she has all the leeway to lead the drug war, Palace officials have yet to confirm any schedule for the meeting between Duterte and Robredo.

She may not be allowed to attend meetings in Malacañang anytime soon but Robredo is open to the idea of being present during anti-drug operations.

Even then, some have opposed the move, namely Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who said yesterday that the Vice President will just be a “distraction” should she decide to join.

In an interview on the sidelines of the 83rd founding anniversary of the National Bureau of Investigation, Guevarra said, “I have some reservations about that because she does not need to join the raid just for her to see how it goes.”

“It might distract their (operatives’) attention. I hope she will not join. Anyway, she can monitor it in some other way,” he added.

One way to monitor the operations would be to equip anti-drug operatives with body cams, an idea that Guevarra supports.

“If they have body cams, she (Robredo) can see how the raid happens – joining the raid personally might endanger herself,” Guevarra said in Filipino.

Barred entry? Not so fast

Meanwhile, despite pronouncements of two officials of the Duterte administration that they are against the entry of Phelim Kine, former deputy director for Asia of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, into the country, Guevarra is not quick to share their opinion and said he would first thoroughly evaluate the matter.

The justice secretary yesterday did not immediately abide by the statements of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who share the opinion that Kine should not be allowed to enter the country, and should not advise the Vice President on how to implement the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Guevarra would also exercise prudence in handling the matter on whether Kine should be placed in the Bureau of Immigration (BI)’s blacklist.

“We have to evaluate this matter thoroughly. (It would) not be prudent to comment unless we know exactly the purpose and parameters of Kine’s visit,” said Guevarra.

When asked if they would consult Robredo on whether Kine should be barred from entering the country, the justice secretary said, “This matter is between the BI and Kine. We will consult the Vice President only if necessary.”

Last Nov. 10, Kine, tweeted “Dear VP (Leni Robredo) – my bags are packed and I’m ready to come to the Philippines to help advise how to end this murderous ‘drug war.’ Meanwhile here is my Recommendation No. 1: arrest Duterte and his henchmen for inciting (and) instigating mass murder.”

The tweet was in response to a Philippine STAR report about Robredo seeking consultations with government officials and UN officers on best practices in the campaign against illegal drugs.

Locsin responded in a tweet, “Don’t worry; he can’t get into the country. We have to spare Leni the moral moronism of those who use her.”

Panelo supported Locsin’s position, saying Kine had already prejudged President Duterte. “He has already reached a conclusion that this is a murderous country. Then he said arrest Duterte.” – With Evelyn Macairan, Jose Rodel Clapano

LENI ROBREDO
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