Ping: Palace should clarify VP’s role amid differences with PDEA
Vice President Leni Robredo should ask Malacañang to clarify the scope of her authority and responsibilities as one of the heads of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad) amid differences with her cochair in the antidrug body, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said on Saturday.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief and Icad cochair Aaron Aquino had rebuffed Robredo’s request to share with her the PDEA’s list of high-value drug trafficking targets, saying she did not need to have it. He also publicly disputed her statement that China was the main source of illegal drugs flowing into the country.
Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief and one of Robredo’s advisers in her new job, said the list of drug targets was “basic information” that she should have access to, especially since her thrust was to go after the main suppliers rather than low-level street peddlers.
“She’s entitled to it. How will you formulate policies if you don’t have the narcolist?” Lacson told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
He also believes that as the second highest official in the country, Robredo has the security clearance to handle that kind of information. “I think she knows her responsibilities when she gets a copy,” he said.
Following her meeting with members of the Icad’s law enforcement cluster on Thursday, Robredo told reporters she had learned that China was the main source of illegal drugs in the Philippines.
Aquino, however, corrected her saying the source of “shabu” (crystal meth) was the so-called Golden Triangle region that covers Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
Lacson said both Aquino and Robredo were right because China was a source of illegal drugs, which were also transshipped through other countries or regions like the Golden Triangle.
But what was more a cause for concern to Lacson was that Robredo and Aquino were saying different things in public.
“It does not have a good effect on the drug operations if she and Aquino contradict each other. The operatives would be confused,” he said.
“They should have a one-on-one to reconcile the contradictions,” he added.
No to sharing list
Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, who said he was worried about Robredo’s designation as Icad cochair, also was against sharing the narcolist with her.
Robredo, the nominal leader of the opposition, told reporters on Saturday that she expected both resentment and mistrust over her appointment.
“I understand the reservations [on sharing drug war data]. I don’t take them personally,” she said.
The Vice President, however, added that the limited data she would have access to also would cramp her ability to do her job.
“But I was very realistic when I decided to accept the designation. I understand that there would be many limitations, and I am used to adjusting to limitations,” she said.
Lacson advised Robredo to ask Malacañang for the details of her mandate, which was given to her through a memorandum.
The Oct. 31 memorandum did not specify the scope of her duties and powers. Malacañang had explained that it wanted to give her free rein in her new job.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III is siding with Aquino on not sharing the list of high-value targets with the Vice President as it was not necessary for her to perform her role as cochair of the Icad.
He said the Icad’s task was only to coordinate policies among agencies involved in addressing drug abuse and trafficking.
“A list of [high-value] targets will merely leak if the agencies concerned will submit it to the Icad,” Sotto, a former head of the Dangerous Drugs Board, told reporters.
Weekly report to Duterte
He said Robredo should be careful in saying that China was the source of illegal drugs.
“The Chinese government has the same headache that we have. Meth precursor substances might be coming mostly from China, but it does not mean their government is behind it. We should be careful lest we insinuate such,” Sotto said.
Robredo on Friday said she had sent her first report on the antidrug campaign to President Duterte and planned weekly reports “along with my recommendations.”
Speaking to reporters in her hometown of Naga City, the Vice President said the public should understand that her new position “involves policy making only.”
“I don’t have supervision over the PNP, or over the other departments in the Icad,” she said. The President, as head of law enforcement, would still call the shots in the drug war, she explained.
She admitted that “one of the big problems in Naga is drugs,” which enter the city on buses and ferries.
However, Robredo said Naga should not be singled out, since it was just one of several places plagued by illegal drugs.
“There is a problem but I’m not saying that the problem in Naga is bigger than other places. I don’t have enough data to say that categorically,” she said.
Mr. Duterte has said Naga was a “hotbed” of shabu.
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