VICE PRESIDENT Maria Leonor G. Robredo has been appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as co-chair of the inter-agency committee handling his drug war.
In an appointment paper released by the Palace on Tuesday, Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea designates Ms. Robredo “as Co-Chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).”
The appointment comes less than a week after Mr. Duterte, in a speech in Malacañang on Oct. 28 and an interview with reporters after the event, said he will give the vice president authority over the anti-drug operations.
The inter-agency committee involves 41 government agencies subdivided into four clusters, namely: enforcement, justice, rehabilitation and reintegration, and advocacy.
The ICAD, led by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), was formed in 2017 through Executive Order (EO) No. 15.
The appointment paper allows Ms. Robredo, a member of the opposition Liberal Party, to hold the ICAD position until June 30, 2020.
However, Ms. Robredo’s spokesperson, Ibarra Gutierrez III said the co-chair position does not exist under EO 15.
“If they were serious they would not be giving this memorandum… If you look at the EO itself, mukhang wala pa ang (there is no) position that is being designated,” Mr. Gutierrez said in a briefing on Tuesday.
The appointment paper also directs PDEA, the Philippine National Police (PNP), Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), and all other law enforcement agencies “to extend their full assistance and cooperation to the Vice President and ensure the success of the Government’s efforts in the war against illegal drugs.”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo told reporters in a phone interview that should Ms. Robredo decline the appointment, she would not be fulfilling what she thinks the administration should do to address the problem on illegal drugs.
“Nothing will happen if she declines. It just means all her criticism are not real,” Mr. Panelo said.
The heads of various government agencies involved in anti-narcotics operations, meanwhile, welcomed Ms. Robredo’s appointment.
“The PDEA believes she can contribute on the advocacy and rehabilitation/reintegration clusters,” Director General Aaron N. Aquino said in a text message.
Mr. Aquino, who chairs the inter-agency body, earlier made a statement that Ms. Robredo will fail if appointed as “drug czar.”
He explained in a radio interview on Tuesday that he was only referring to the vice president’s lack of experience in law enforcement.
The PNP also said it is ready to give full assistance to Ms. Robredo.
“The PNP will extend its utmost courtesy, cooperation and full assistance to the Vice President,” Spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard M. Banac said in a statement.
DDB Chairman Catalino S. Cuy, for his part, said the vice president could bring in fresh ideas on how to solve the drug problem. — Gillian M. Cortez and Philippine Star Emmanuel Tupas