'Anti-drug czar' Robredo not in Duterte Cabinet after all
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over the 43rd Cabinet Meeting at the Malacañan Palace on November 6, 2019.
'Anti-drug czar' Robredo not in Duterte Cabinet after all
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - November 18, 2019 - 8:09pm

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo is not part of the Cabinet despite her designation as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal drugs and despite previous statements from President Rodrigo Duterte and the Palace.

Duterte over the weekend expressed concern that Robredo may disclose sensitive information discussed during Cabinet meetings, noting that she has been talking to various groups since she was named co-chair of ICAD.

"She (Robredo) is not a member of the Cabinet. I have not appointed her as a Cabinet member. You know why? Early on she was talking right and left that she would talk to this and talk to that. In the Cabinet meeting, we talk about what's happening eh kung marinig nya yan dyan tapos dadaldal nya sa labas, so di ko (what if she hears them and spills them, so I did not make her a Cabinet member)," Duterte told GMA News reporter Marisol Abdurahman.

"She's not a Cabinet (member). I have not signed an appointment designating her as a Cabinet (member)," he added.

Last month, Duterte offered the anti-drug czar post to Robredo after the vice president claimed that the government's crackdown on narcotics should be reviewed and "tweaked". Robredo accepted the offer and vowed to put an end to what she described as "senseless killings" in the controversial campaign.

Speaking to reporters in Davao City last October 31, Duterte said Robredo should have a Cabinet rank if she becomes "anti-drug czar," a designation that does not really exist.

"If I would take her in as the drug czar, I will have to first make her a Cabinet member. Then I will give her the marching orders and the specific functions. All in connection with drugs, hers," he said in a press conference at a Catholic cemetery in Davao City.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo had also issued statements stating that Robredo would be given a Cabinet-rank post if she accepts the president's offer.

RELATED: Robredo to join next Cabinet meet? Only if invited, she says

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Robredo could still perform her functions even if she is not a member of the Cabinet.

"As co-chair of ICAD she's already been calling meetings with anti-drug agencies and she’s been functioning as co-chair and agencies are giving her support," Nograles said in a phone patch interview on Monday.

"I think that’s sufficient and the fact that she is able to call meetings means that she's already doing her job as chair ng ICAD," he added.

'Do not cross the line'

Duterte said Robredo should avoid overreaching her authority as ICAD co-chair and disclosing classified information to foreign entities.

"Early on, many people have offered to help her. She would be protected, that's good. But you know you guys, do not cross the line just because you are there you think you are fancy? No, of course not. You and I have this duty to our country," the president said.

"I'm just in the side and I think she's doing good. But she has to... treading on very dangerous ground, I heard. Just because you are taken in to be a the flag officer of the ICAD doesn't mean you can just give info right and left," he added.

Duterte said he is ready to fire Robredo if she leaks classified information.

"I hope that, she's a lawyer and she has the adviser that there are certain matters that should be kept with the govt that classified matters cannot be shared...Once she does that, she's out. I will fire her because you jeopardize the security of the state," the president said.

Asked if he is contemplating firing Robredo, Duterte replied: "No, as long as she stays on that, treading on a red line. Because of her so many references of talking to this talking to that talking to the prosecutor. She even invited (the prosecutor). And that prosecutor said I am all packed and ready to go to arrest Duterte. Oh, and I would be privileged if that guy does it."

Duterte may have been referring to Phelim Kine, a rights worker formerly with Human Rights Watch, who tweeted his bags "are packed and I’m ready to come to the Philippines to help advise how to end this murderous ‘drug war.’"

Robredo did not respond to the tweet and has said that she would prefer that the Philippines handle its drug problem by itself.

READ: Palace agrees rights defender who offered Robredo 'drug war' advice should stay out

Last March, the Philippines walked out of the Rome Statute, the treaty that formed the ICC, in response to the tribunal's decision to conduct a preliminary examination on the government's war on narcotics.

Malacañang has said the ICC did not have jurisdiction over the Philippines because the Rome Statute was not published in the government's official publication.

The ICC has maintained that the Philippines' withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute would not remove its obligation to cooperate with the probe. 

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