VICE-PRESIDENT Maria Leonor G. Robredo on Wednesday said she had agreed to head the Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign, if only to stop the killings.
“In the end, the most important consideration is very simple — if this is a chance to stop the killing of the innocent and make those responsible accountable, I will carry this burden,” she said of her appointment in Filipino.
Philippine police have said they have killed more than 6,000 people in illegal drug raids, many of them resisting arrest. Some local nongovernmental organizations and the national Commission on Human Rights have placed the death toll at more than 27,000.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte last month appointed her as co-chairperson of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs.
The president limited the job duration to six months when he first made the offer, after the vice president’s criticism that the campaign should be re-assessed.
Ms. Robredo had said drug addicts have grown to as many as 8 million this year from 1.4 million, citing data from the Dangerous Drugs Board. The latest appointment does not say how long she will stay in the position.
Mr. Duterte and Ms. Robredo would meet to discuss her specific powers as “drug czar,” his spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said at a televised briefing at the presidential palace.
“She will have to talk to the president so she will know the extent and scope of her power as the drug czar,” he said, adding that Mr. Duterte would ensure that “she will be on top of the situation.”
Ms. Robredo’s decision to accept the presidential appointment comes even as her party mates warned that this could be a trap.
“Even if Vice-President Leni knew that this could be a trap, she accepted the challenge,” Liberal Party President and Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said in Filipino.
“Our poor countrymen who are the targets of this bloody drug war are more important to her,” he added.
While Mr. Belmonte in a separate statement said that with the right tools and the support of the administration, Ms. Robredo is capable of turning the campaign to a “war against poverty,” instead of a “war against poor people.”
Liberal Party Secretary General and Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Y. Belmonte noted that with Mr. Duterte’s support, Ms. Robredo could turn the campaign into a “war against poverty” instead of being a “war against poor people.”
Majority of Filipinos were satisfied with Mr. Duterte’s deadly war on drugs despite worldwide criticism, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll. — Charmaine A. Tadalan