Info on high-value targets crucial to Robredo's role in anti-drug war â LP
Vice-President Leni Robredo (R) attends a press conference with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino in Manila on Nov. 8, 2019.
AFP/Maria Tan
Info on high-value targets crucial to Robredo's role in anti-drug war — LP
( - November 18, 2019 - 6:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — Data on law enforcement agencies' big-time drug suspects is crucial for Vice President Leni Robredo’s task as co-chairperson of a government anti-illegal drug panel, the Liberal Party said Monday.

According to the executive order that created the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, among the panel's functions is "[ensuring] the effective conduct of anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of high-value drug personalities down to the street-level peddlers and users."

In a statement, lawyer Erin Tañada, LP’s vice president for external affairs, said that if the government wants Robredo to succeed in her new mandate as co-chairperson of ICAD, they should provide want she needs to effectively address the problem of illegal drugs.

This includes data on the government’s “high-value targets,” the LP official said.

The government uses HVTs to refer to big-time drug suspects that it goes after. Operations against HVTs are part of "Project HVT", which is done alongside "Project Tokhang," which is the Philippine National Police calls the "Lower Barrel Approach."

The two "projects" are part of PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Campaign Plan "Double Barrel,"

READ: ‘Robredo may be treading on dangerous ground’

“Depriving [Robredo] of the needed intelligence report will render her blind in the performance of her duty. How can you fight illegal drugs if you don’t know your enemy?”  Tañada said.

“If they are not covering up anything, it is very easy to release the said intelligence report for the information of Robredo as [part of ICAD],” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.

OVP: Duterte often names drug suspects in speeches

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Sunday said Robredo may be treading on “dangerous ground” if she invites foreigners critical of the anti-narcotics campaign.

Panelo pointed out that Robredo demanding access to classified data regarding the drug war may be “an overreach of the granted authority.”

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino earlier said that he does not understand why Robredo would need such information.

"We don’t agree to that because in the first place, she’s just a chairman of one committee. It is beyond her mandate to request for whatever list that I think has no purpose," Aquino, originally the lone chair of ICAD, said in a TV5 interview.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Vice President questioned the PDEA’s hesitation to hand Robredo information on HVTs.

Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokersperson, was quoted in a GMA News online report as saying in Filipino: “Are they not interested in helping the vice president? Do they feel bypassed?”

He pointed out that Duterte, who appointed Robredo to the ICAD, “on several occasions named people that he says are involved in the drug trade.”

The president, in some of his freestyle speeches, names personalities whom he suspects are linked to the illegal narcotics trade. The government has also released list of "narco-politicians" and a supposed "drug matrix."

Being included in a supposed "narco-list" does not automatically lead to arrests or to charges being filed.

Gutierrez also stressed that Robredo knows which information should not be divulged to the public.

In a chance interview at the Senate early Monday, Robredo assured that she will not disclose classified information relating to the drug war.

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

Robredo was at the Department of Health on Monday for a briefing on the status of drug rehabilitation centers in the country.

She earlier said that government should not address the drug menace by looking at it as a problem of crime.

“We should look at it not just using the lens of crimes or criminal justice but also using the lens of health and the fact that addiction is a medical and a sociological problem,” she said. — Kristine Joy Patag

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