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‘THEY HAVE GROSSLY UNDERESTIMATED HER’

Robredo fired for being threat, embarrassment to admin — bishop

/ 04:26 AM November 27, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte fired Vice President Leni Robredo from the lead role in his war on drugs because she had become a threat and an embarrassment to his administration, Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon said on Tuesday.

“I saw it coming all along. Leni has finally [gotten an answer to her question] whether the administration was ready for her,” Buzon said.

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“They have grossly underestimated her and now she has become a threat and an embarrassment to the administration. It just shows that the administration is not as sincere and serious in solving the drug problem as Leni is,” he said.

Former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela said he was not surprised at Robredo’s dismissal as cochair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs.

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He said the sacking of the Vice President reflected “the quality of thinking” in Malacañang.

“But who knows? He (Mr. Duterte) might change his tune again tomorrow,” Coscolluela said.

Change of approach

The President fired Robredo on Sunday, 18 days after she accepted his offer of a lead role in his war on drugs.

He had directed all agencies to support Robredo, and promised to give her “everything” she would need to pursue the program to eradicate the country’s drug problem.

The crackdown had drawn global condemnation because of the killings of thousands of mostly poor drug users and peddlers by police, who claimed the victims had resisted arrest.

The Philippine National Police acknowledges the killings of more than 6,000 suspects, but human rights groups say the death toll could be much higher.

Right after accepting her appointment, Robredo said she wanted to change the campaign’s view of drug use from crime to public health problem.

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She also said she wanted to reduce the demand for drugs by putting narcotics out of the reach of people through attrition.

For that she needed to know who the suppliers were, but when she asked for a copy of the government’s list of high-value targets, the law-enforcement agencies on the interagency committee balked, saying the list was classified information.

Mr. Duterte himself attacked Robredo, saying at a news conference that he did not trust her because she was with the political opposition, calling her “scatterbrain” and accusing her of “grandstanding” in the press.

Robredo responded by demanding straight talk: if the President could not trust her and if he wanted her out, just say the word.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, explaining Robredo’s dismissal on Sunday night, said Mr. Duterte was offended.

“You don’t say that to your boss, who is the President of the Philippines,” Panelo said.

Robredo came back on Monday asking what Malacañang had feared she might learn by giving her access to classified information.

She said losing her job on the interagency committee would not stop her from trying to stop the killings and bring the killers to justice.

‘Report to the nation’

Robredo said she would disclose all that she had discovered about the war on drugs and her recommendations, which would have been her third report to President Duterte on what she had accomplished in the more than two weeks she had been on the job.

On Tuesday, Panelo played down Robredo’s reference to a “report to the nation,” saying she should have immediately disclosed anything she had discovered about the drug war.

“Does it mean that she will reveal whatever bad or illegal thing she discovered while being part of the administration?” Panelo asked. “And now that she’s out [of the administration] she will only reveal it now. It doesn’t seem to speak well of the Vice President’s image.”

Robredo’s cochair of the interagency committee, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino, issued a statement urging the Vice President to proceed with the disclosure.

“I am personally encouraging Vice President Leni Robredo to make her revelations on what she claims as her discoveries on the government’s drug war,” Aquino said.

“I believe that whatever revelations she [has will] help us in improving and furthering the anti-illegal drug campaign,” he added.

Police not worried

The PNP, too, issued a statement, saying it was not worried about what Robredo might disclose.

“The PNP is open to any revelation from Vice President Leni Robredo for improvements in the campaign against narcotics high-value targets and the pursuit of community-based drug rehabilitation program,” said Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, the PNP spokesperson.

Human rights group Karapatan slammed Malacañang’s explanations for the removal of Robredo from the interagency committee on drugs, saying the government was “twisting” the facts in blaming her for her ouster.

“What a circus,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the group.

“When Robredo started talking about accountability, there was visible panic among Duterte’s chuwariwaps,” she said, referring to the President’s allies. “Now that she is making strides and would possibly have access to information that can implicate the Duterte government, she was cut off. So what is this government hiding from the public?”

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman compared Robredo’s firing to extrajudicial killing in the war on drugs.

“The firing of Robredo is to conceal from her relevant data on the violent narcotics drive, which is similar to the extrajudicial killing of some victims to silence them and cover up incriminatory information known to them,” Lagman said in a statement.

“The proffered reason for firing Robredo that she taunted the President to dismiss her for mistrust is a ludicrous and hostile reaction just like the alibi of police operatives that they fired their guns because the alleged drug suspects taunted and provoked them with their resistance,” Lagman said.

Even the Communist Party of the Philippines saw Robredo’s dismissal as a bad move by the Duterte administration.

‘Drug war hoax’

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the party applauded Robredo’s “strong position against the Duterte regime’s antipeople drug war” and urged all Filipinos “to unite and forge a firm stand” to “expose Duterte’s protection of the drug war syndicates and put a decisive end to the drug war hoax.”

In an online interview on Tuesday, Communist Party founder Jose Maria Sison hailed Robredo’s strong resolve to expose the truth about the drug war.

“I am glad to know that she is determined to tell the truth about the Duterte regime’s actual protection of the drug lords and about the sham war on drugs at the expense of the poor suspected users and pushers,” Sison said. —REPORTS FROM CARLA GOMEZ, JULIE M. AURELIO, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, MARIEJO S. RAMOS, MELVIN GASCON AND DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.

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TAGS: Drug war, ICAD, Leni Robredo, Patricio Buzon, Rodrigo Duterte
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