Duterte dares Robredo: Lead drug war
MANILA, Philippines — Smarting from her criticism of his war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he would give Vice President Leni Robredo “full powers” to run the government’s campaign against narcotics for six months.
The President dared Robredo to solve the country’s drug problem if she was really “bright” or better than he.
“I said if she wants, I can commission her to be the drug czar. She has many complaints out there. She said you have to redirect your… or whatever,” the President said in a talk with reporters in Malacañang.
“Now if you’re better than me, I’ll hand to you full powers over the drug [war]. I’ll give you six months. Let’s see if you can handle it,” the President said, addressing Robredo.
He said he would send a letter to Robredo through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
“I will surrender my powers to enforce the law. I will give it to the Vice President. I will give it to her for six months,” he said.
“Let’s see what will happen. I will not interfere. You want it? You’re more bright? Then try it,” he said.
The Inquirer sought comment from Robredo, but there was no response from her or her staff as of press time on Monday night.
The President spoke on the sidelines of an oath-taking ceremony for newly appointed officials that he led on Monday afternoon.
He apparently took offense at Robredo’s criticism of his brutal war on drugs in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, especially at her statement that he should allow the United Nations to investigate the campaign that has cost more than 6,000 lives.
“The President has already made very serious threats to drug syndicates, to drug lords . . . and yet it’s still very prevalent, so obviously it’s not working,” Robredo said.
“We have seen a lot of police [who] have abused their powers and not been penalized so this is where the International Criminal Court (ICC) could come in, if we do not show the world that we can take care of our own mess,” she said.
The ICC has begun looking into information about alleged extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs. In response, the President withdrew the Philippines from the Rome Statute, the international treaty that underpins the ICC.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has also approved a resolution to investigate the killings, angering the President, who has ordered a halt to loan negotiations with the countries that voted for the resolution.
In her Reuters interview, Robredo lamented the rising number of people killed by police in the drug war who she said were mostly poor.
‘It needs to be assessed’
“A lot of people have died and the numbers are still rising. It needs to be assessed,” she said.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo responded on Friday, saying Robredo was merely echoing “the lies and black propaganda of some of her colleagues in the political opposition.”
On Monday, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the drug problem persisted because there was so much money in the narcotics industry and there were many pushers, some of whom were also users.
“So we have to be careful of our words, especially she’s No. 2 in the Philippines,” Cayetano said.
Robredo’s Reuters interview was published under the headline, “Philippine vice president says time for Duterte to halt failed drug war.”
Speaking on her radio program on Sunday, Robredo clarified that she did not call for a halt to the drug war but for its reassessment.
“If you check the interview, what I said was that the government should assess if proper strategies are being implemented [in the drug war] because if not, then it needs to be tweaked,” Robredo said.—With reports from Neil Arwin Mercado and Pathricia Ann V. Roxas
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