Vice President Leni Robredo said yesterday she was postponing the release of her report on the government’s anti-drug campaign to focus on relief efforts following the magnitude 6.9 earthquake that jolted Davao del Sur and nearby provinces.
Robredo defers release of drug war report
(The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — In the wake of another destructive earthquake in Mindanao, Vice President Leni Robredo said she decided to hold off the release of her report on the drug war scheduled yesterday to allow the country to focus on rescue and relief operations.

The quake struck Davao del Sur and nearby areas on Sunday afternoon, leaving at least eight people dead.

Robredo said providing assistance to affected communities is more
urgent than the release of her report.

The Vice President’s report contains her findings on President Duterte’s controversial drug war during her 18-day stint as co-chair of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

The report, which Robredo called “Ulat ng Bayan,” also included her recommendations on how to “improve” the campaign.

“We think that it would be better for all of us to focus our attention on helping the victims of the quake. We hope that despite the tragedy, they could still feel the spirit of Christmas,” she said.

“In fact, the report is here. It’s a 40-page report, the summary of which I was scheduled to disclose today. But because of the strong earthquake in Davao del Sur and adjacent provinces like South Cotabato, we decided to postpone it,” she told reporters.

“For me, it would not be the right time to focus on the ICAD report, there will be another time for this,” Robredo said.

Duterte fired Robredo barely three weeks after naming her ICAD co-chair. The President reportedly resented her decision to meet with officials of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the US embassy.

The Vice President is expected to release the report after the Christmas holidays. She did not provide a specific date.

She had also postponed the release of her report early this month to give way to the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Robredo appealed yesterday to the public to lend a hand to those affected by Sunday’s powerful tremor.

Robredo said she instructed her staff to “scale down” their Christmas celebrations and make them “simple.”

The Office of the Vice President has formed a team to conduct relief operations in quake-hit areas, she said.

“We received reports that there were eight to 10 people who were killed and six more were trapped inside a collapsed shopping center,” Robredo said.

“I want to take this opportunity to call for unity. I also ask for help to those who have the capacity to help. What they need most now are tents and drinking water,” she said.

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Robredo could just be making excuses because she has nothing to present.

“What’s taking her so long? As the President said, ‘bring it on, whatever you want to come out with.’ It’s really difficult if you really don’t have anything to say and you are thinking of what to release,” Panelo said at a press briefing.

“We do not know the things that she said she has discovered. She seemed to have backtracked. She said, ‘I would release my recommendations.’ But earlier, she said, ‘Are you afraid that I will discover something?’ And then she said, ‘I will disclose the things I discovered.’ I don’t get her,” he added.

When informed that Robredo had deferred her announcement because of the Mindanao quake, Panelo said: “As I said, if she intends to expose an irregularity, she should have done so from the very time of the discovery. Apparently, there is none.”

The Department of the Interior and Local Government, for its part, said it is eagerly awaiting the release of Robredo’s report on the drug war and expressed dismay for her delaying its release.

“We in the DILG, we were waiting for the VP report on the anti illegal drugs. We were quite ready for whatever she would mention,” Assistant Secretary Ricojudge Echiverri said at a press briefing.

Echiverri said ICAD has long seen “policy gaps” in the anti-drug campaign that Robredo may have mentioned in her report.

He noted that the absence of local government participation and accountability in the campaign is one of the hindrances to the success of the campaign.

The DILG official said he was wondering why Robredo had to defer the release of her report.

“I don’t understand why she would not continue the press con. She could send a PR. If she wishes to help the victims probably it’s not an excuse,” he said.

But whatever is contained in Robredo’s report does not worry the Philippine National Police (PNP), said deputy chief for operations Lt. Gen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan.

“For as long as we have done our job properly, there is nothing to fear for us,” he told reporters at Camp Crame.

He emphasized the PNP would focus on law enforcement and not let itself get dragged into politics. “If it’s political in nature, we always do away with it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) belied Robredo’s claim that he had been making contrary statements about her.

PDEA director general Aaron Aquino admitted that while he felt awkward with Robredo when she was ICAD chairperson, he still accorded her respect as an appointee to the post by the President and as the second highest-official in the country.

“I never told her not to leave us. It was the Vice President who said she will stay as long as the President wants her to retain her post as ICAD chairman. Maybe the VP only got mixed up by the turn of events,” he said in a statement.

The PDEA chief noted that Robredo did not heed his advice to meet all the ICAD clusters during her stint. – Helen Flores, Alexis Romero, Romina Cabrera, Emmanuel Tupas

DRUG WAR LENI ROBREDO
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