Opposition to Duterte: Just quit, give Robredo 3 years
Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday urged President Duterte to just step down and let Vice President Leni Robredo run the government, after he, in a fit of pique, challenged her on Monday to take over the campaign against illegal drugs.
But the President’s allies in the Senate said the President was still the best official to lead the brutal crackdown, which has taken the lives of more than 6,000 mostly poor drug suspects since its launch in 2016.
“Only the President can wield sufficient authority and power over our law enforcement officials,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a Viber message to the Inquirer.
“Unless he delegates a blanket authority, including the power to hire and fire, no one else in the government bureaucracy can do it better than the Chief Executive under any other given circumstances,” he said.
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former Philippine National Police chief who led the crackdown that saw police shooting even minors, agreed with Lacson, pointing out that Robredo had no experience in law enforcement.
“I don’t want our country to become another Mexico so [the President] should tighten his grip on the drug situation instead of leasing his power to [someone] who has no proven track record in crime fighting,” Dela Rosa said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the President should just designate Robredo as head of the Dangerous Drugs Board and its law enforcement arm, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, if he was really serious about his proposal.
The President took umbrage at Robredo’s statement in an interview with Reuters news agency on Wednesday that the war on drugs should be reassessed after it had failed to reduce the number of users and stop the smuggling of narcotics into the country. She also decried the continuing killings and police abuses.
In a talk with reporters in Malacañang on Monday, the President dared Robredo to solve the drug problem in six months if she believed she was brighter or better than he.
“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,” the President said.
“Let’s see what will happen. I will not interfere. You want it? You’re more bright? Then try it,” he added.
Robredo on Tuesday declined to comment on the President’s dare, saying she preferred to wait for things to cool down first.
“Right now, I don’t want to answer him because the country’s big problems cannot be solved by resorting to pique, anger and insults,” she told reporters in Iloilo City.
“Our problems are serious. We need to calm down. Things may have been said that were not really meant. I don’t want to add to the problem,” she added.
But presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo urged the Vice President to either accept the President’s challenge or keep quiet.
“She should just keep quiet. Not to shut up. As I said, just keep quiet if you cannot even do what you’re criticizing of us,” Panelo said at a news briefing in Malacañang.
He said he texted the President’s drug czar offer to Robredo on Monday night, but she had not responded to his message.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also dared Robredo to accept the President’s “generous” offer.
“That’s a fair offer, a generous one in fact. It could be the best presidential campaign move — or not,” Locsin tweeted on Tuesday.
He, however, conceded that Robredo’s assessment that the drug war had failed to reduce the number of users was “really fair.”
“We need to expand and intensify the war to dry up supply and bury suppliers. Thank you ma’am,” Locsin said.
Acting police chief Archie Gamboa said there was no need for a review of the war on drugs, which he described as a “very successful campaign.”
But Gamboa said the PNP was open to allowing Robredo to lead the campaign.
“Let’s give it a try if she accepts the challenge and, of course, it is [up to the President to] lay down the rules on what’s going to be her role, if ever she’s given that role,” he said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the President appeared to be “washing his hands” of his brutal crackdown on drugs by rhetorically asking Robredo to solve the problem herself.
The Vice President, Lagman said in a statement, “is not the President’s alter ego but his well-meaning critic who has no authority.”
He said the President should accept the fact that his approach to the drug problem was wrong.
“Strong-handed and violence-driven police and military campaigns against drug pushers and users [have] failed in the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Thailand because the drug problem is more a poverty issue and a health concern rather than a police matter,” Lagman said.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima said the President’s remarks were just another of his hot air declarations intended to stir up his “fanatical base of mindless sycophants.”
She dared the President to follow the Constitution, “[t]ransmit to [Congress] your written declaration that you are unable to discharge the powers and duties of your office, and let Robredo take over.”
Make it three years
Sen. Francis Pangilinan echoed De Lima’s view that the President should delegate his authority and allow Robredo to serve out his remaining term in Malacañang.
“Why only six months? Make it three years and I’m sure that the tons of ‘shabu’ won’t be allowed to pass through the [Bureau of Customs], there will be no daily killings of our poor countrymen while the ‘ninja cops’ and syndicate members are being given good assignments,” Pangilinan said.—With reports from Julie M. Aurelio, DJ Yap, Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
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