Vice President Leni Robredo pictured as she makes her statement at Office of the Vice President in Quezon City last November 06, 2019. Robredo accepted the challenge of President Rodrigo Duterte as Drug Czar.
Michael Varcas
Palace warns Robredo vs 'revealing state secrets' in 'drug war'
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - November 17, 2019 - 12:59pm

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo on Sunday stressed that Vice President Leni Robredo could be removed as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs if she shares confidential information on the anti-drug campaign. 

The Palace statement comes as agencies in the ICAD have expressed misgivings about sharing information with Robredo, who nominally has the same authority as Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino.

"Revealing State secrets to foreign individuals and entities as well as welcoming those who have trampled the country's sovereignty would be damaging to the welfare of the Filipino people," he told reporters.

"The president stated that [this] will cause the removal of the vice president from her current post."

According to Panelo, the president's warning came in response to the vice president's request for access to all data and documents relating to the government's "war on drugs."

Panelo claimed "even the prosecutor of the rejected Rome Statute ICC that has no jurisdiction over the country has been welcomed by the Anti-Illegal Drug Czar," saying further that the vice president "may not realize it but she could be treading on dangerous grounds."

Robredo has already said she would prefer that the country to first try to solve its problems internally before inviting international investigators to come in.

"I think it is only fair to the agencies involved that I talk to them directly about it before deciding what to do next," she said on her first week as ICAD co-chair when asked if she would support an international probe of the drug war.

On her radio show on Sunday, Robredo said that she will not force agencies to cooperate with her despite her designation as co-chair of the ICAD.

"Nasa sa kanila naman yun. Yung order ni pangulo, bigyan ako ng buwelo, mag-cooperate yung agencies," she said.

(That is up to them. The president's order was for them to give me leeway, for agencies to cooperate)

She also said that she knows how to keep sensitive information confidential.

RELATED: Amid 'laglagan' fears, Robredo assures agencies she understands confidentiality

"Pero yung transparency, mahalaga yun kasi yun yung nage-exact ng accountability sa mga opisyal. Kung tinatago natin lahat, paano natin mapapanagot yung hindi gumagawa ng kanilang trabaho, yung mga may katiwalian," she also said.

(But transparency is important to exact accountability of officials. If we hide everything, how do we hold accountable those who do not do their jobs, or those who are involved in irregularities?)

"Sa mga gusto mag-cooperate, dun ako gagalaw.  Hindi ko naman ipipilit yung ayaw mag-cooperate," she also said, adding she will submit reports on what are tackled at the ICAD meetings, as well as her recommendations, to the president.

(I will work with those who want to cooperate. I will not force those who do not want to cooperate)

She said she has already submitted her first report and plans to send weekly reports to President Duterte.

DOJ: Appointees serve at the pleasure of the president

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, whose department is also represented on the ICAD, said the president "may remove any appointee at his pleasure, more especially if trust and confidence, which is the principal basis of any appointment, is lost."

"Needless to say, disclosing sensitive and classified information to unauthorized persons is betrayal of trust, and is therefore a proper and reasonable basis for revocation of one’s appointment," he also said.

He said, though, that Robredo's removal from ICAD would not affect the committee's work "as no one is indispensable in the drug campaign, and there will always be someone better to take his or her place." 

Duterte's and Panelo's warning comes a few weeks after Robredo's appointment to her position, despite warnings from supporters and allies that she may be being set up for failure.

"Kahit sabihin na natin na ang alok na ito ay pamumulitika lamang at hindi naman talaga akong susundin ng mga ahensya, [ay] handa akong tiisin ang lahat na ito," Robredo herself acknowledged accepting the position.

"Dahil kung mayroon akong maliligtas na kahit isang inosenteng buhay, ang sinasabi ng prinsipyo at puso ko ay kailangan ko itong subukan."

(Even if we suppose that this offer is simply politicking and these agencies would not even follow me, I am ready to endure all of this. Because if I can save even one innocent life, my principles and my heart tell me that I need to try.) 

Panelo addressed these claims as well in his recent statement, calling them "pessimistic and unfounded" because "the president is merely reminding VP Leni of the imperatives as well as the limits of her appointment." 

Accountability 

On Saturday, Duterte said in an exclusive interview with GMA News that Robredo would be fired if she aids probes into the government's "war on drugs."

"There are certain matters that should be kept with the government, that classified matters cannot be shared. Once [she does] that, she's out, I would fire her. Because you jeopardized the security of the state," he said. 

Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has started a preliminary examination—a process distinct from an investigation—into killings related to the "war on drugs." The examination is meant to determine whether the allegations are within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

The Palace initially welcomed the anouncement of a preliminary examination but has since rejected it. 

Duterte has made it clear that the country will not cooperate. "The court can never acquire jurisdiction over my person. Not in a million years," he said in a speech a few days before the Philippines' withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute and from the court took effect.

"When they tell Immigration that they will be investigating (the anti-drug campaign), maybe they’ll be denied entry immediately by Immigration,” Panelo said at the time. “Smile at them and tell them nicely, ‘You can’t do it here. If you persist, you will be deported.'"

ICC however said in a press statement that "the ICC retains its jurisdiction over crimes committed during the time in which the State was party to the Statute and may exercise this jurisdiction over these crimes even after the withdrawal becomes effective."

Additionally the UN Human Rights Council voted in July to call for a review into the human rights situation in the Philippines. The Philippines rejected the resolution and the Palace called it "grotesquely one-sided, outrageously narrow, and maliciously partisan."

“It reeks of nauseating politics completely devoid of respect for the sovereignty of our country, even as it is bereft of the gruesome realities of the drug menace," he added. 

The ongoing "war on drugs" has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 "drug personalities" in official police operations according to Philippine National Police data from March. Rights advocates, however, say the number is much closer to 27,000. — with a report from The STAR/Evelyn Macairan

DRUG CZAR DRUG WAR ICAD PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN SALVADOR PANELO VP LENI ROBREDO
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