In this photo release, Vice President Leni Robredo met with members of the Naga City Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) at City Anti-Drug Abuse Council (CADAC) to ask for updates in their initiatives in their anti-narcotics campaign.
Office of the Vice President, Facebook release
Robredo meeting with foreign groups 'did not sit well' with Duterte, Palace says
Franco Luna ( - November 19, 2019 - 6:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo’s consultations with foreign bodies were frowned upon by President Rodrigo Duterte, who felt disinclined to appoint her to a Cabinet-level position, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said. 

Early into her appointment as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, Robredo expressed her intention to consult with representatives of the United Nations to share best practices in dealing with illegal drugs, a move that supposedly irked the president. 

The presidential mouthpiece in his statement said that Duterte found issue with Robredo seeking the advice of “certain foreign institutions and personalities that have prejudged the campaign against illegal drugs as a violation of human rights, as well as a crime against humanity.”

Duterte has time and again made clear his disdain for his critics in the international community. In 2016, he swore at the UN as a whole, saying, "Putang ina kang UN. Eh hindi mo nga masolve-solve ang patayan diyan sa Middle East.”

"Do not force on me your code of conduct. You’re not supposed to do that. I never signed anything which says that I have to behave in this manner or in that manner," he added. 

This comes days after the Vice President was informed by the Palace that she would be fired if she were to share state secrets with foreign officials Duterte on Saturday also said in an exclusive interview with GMA News that Robredo would be axed if she aided probes into his administration’s ‘war on drugs’. 

Member agencies of the ICAD have expressed apprehension toward sharing information with Robredo, who supposedly holds the same level of authority as Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino as co-chair of the committee.

“[T]he VP has the tendency to be generous with acquired information and knowledge to others whose predilection may not be in the best interest of the country,” Panelo also pointed out. 

“Being a member of the Cabinet gives Ms. Robredo unlimited access to sensitive State matters which if transmitted by her whether purposely or otherwise could result [in] adverse consequences.”

Not a Cabinet position? 

"The post she was appointed to is not a Cabinet level," Panelo clarified with reporters on Monday. “The discretion to appoint her as a member of Cabinet, in addition to her appointment as the anti-illegal drug czar lies with the President.” 

But Panelo himself also said earlier on November 6 that "because Robredo said she is accepting the post, she is already part of the Cabinet and is free to join the (Cabinet) meeting.

“Robredo's insistence on getting access to classified information, a revelation of which could imperil the welfare of the Filipino people and the security of the State, added to [the President’s] reconsideration of his earlier desire to appoint her,” Panelo said Tuesday.

After Robredo called for Malacañang to tweak their approach towards the drug problem, Duterte announced his intent to hand the vice president his law enforcement powers for six months. 

"I will surrender my powers to enforce the law, ibigay ko sa vice president, ibigay ko sa kanya mga six months. Siya ang magdala. Tignan natin kung anong mangyari," Duterte was quoted as saying after the oath-taking of newly-appointed government officials in Malacañang.

Panelo later clarified that this was a serious proposal that was “more of an offer than a challenge.”

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.

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