EDITORIAL – Clarify her role
(The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Probably because no one expected her to accept the offer, the powers and functions of the new anti-drug czar remain unclear. And because the powers and functions have not been clearly delineated, the co-chairs of the Inter-Agency Committee Against Illegal Drugs are groping their way along, with tension appearing to develop between ICAD members and their new boss, Vice President Leni Robredo.

While the executive order released by Malacañang designated Robredo as co-chairperson of Director General Aaron Aquino of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the country’s second highest official clearly outranks the PDEA chief and all the other ICAD members of Cabinet rank.

Aquino has said he had sought clarification from Malacañang about the functions of the co-chairs shortly after Robredo announced her acceptance of the challenge. As of the weekend, it looks like the clarification has not yet been made. Critics can’t seem to make up their mind on whether Robredo has done nothing so far, or that she has been moving too fast – and consequently endangering the war on drugs.

Despite the lack of clarity, Robredo has set out to establish the baselines for redirecting the anti-drug campaign. She has consulted with offices of the United Nations and the United States involved in the global war on narcotics, discussing best practices and existing programs of cooperation with the Philippines. This week she is expected to seek cooperation from the Catholic Church.

Aquino and other ICAD members, meanwhile, have not minced words in expressing concern that information they share with Robredo, particularly on the law enforcement of the campaign, might compromise ongoing operations or even be used against some of them. Before the distrust intensifies, it would be best if Malacañang clarifies what exactly is expected of the co-chair of the ICAD.

Unless this happens, it could reinforce fears that Robredo’s designation was nothing but a kneejerk reaction to her criticism of the anti-drug campaign, and that she is being set up for failure. There’s still time for the administration – and several of its political allies who seem to have been made insecure by the Vice President’s newfound high profile – to show that the presidential spokesman was sincere in his initial reaction to Robredo’s acceptance of the role: “Her success is our success.”

INTER-AGENCY COMMITTEE AGAINST ILLEGAL DRUGS LENI ROBREDO
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