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Palace renews Duterte’s ‘drug czar’ offer to Leni

It’s for real, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said of President Duterte’s offer to Vice President Leni Robredo for her to take over the government’s war on illegal drugs.

“The President renews his offer to the Vice President to become the antidrugs czar, with all offices, bureaus, agencies or government instrumentalities involved in the enforcement of the law on prohibited drugs placed under her command and supervision with a Cabinet secretary portfolio, to ensure her effectiveness in combating the drug menace,” Panelo said in a statement on Thursday.

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The statement should “dispel all doubts on the sincerity of the Chief Executive’s offer,” the Palace official said.

But Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson of the Office of the Vice President (OVP), said the OVP has yet to receive any formal offer of any position.

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Gutierrez added that he’d “rather not comment on a hypothetical (offer). It this is a serious offer, it shouldn’t be made through text messages or press releases.”

If Robredo accepts the offer, this would be her second Cabinet position in the Duterte administration. She was initially named chief of the Housing and Urban Development Council in 2016, but eventually resigned after the President barred her from attending Cabinet meetings later that year.

The President’s offer was apparently born of pique after Robredo said in a recent interview that the antinarcotics campaign was a failure, with thousands killed in operations, including children.

Panelo noted that critics had described the President’s gesture as a trap, “arguing that it (was) impossible for VP Leni to solve the social problem within six months without the support of antidrug bureaus and agencies.”

On the contrary, the administration wants to see Robredo succeed, as it would be “a triumph of the Filipino people against (a) dreaded and destructive evil,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division said that Duterte’s “flippant attitude” toward issues of life and death was the main reason he was facing investigation before the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Robertson said he hopes Mr. Duterte would follow through his offer to Robredo, “who could then order the handing over of all the internal files about … the drug war to international investigators.”

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TAGS: drug czar, Leni Robredo, President Duterte
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