MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has designated a self-described “team player” to help lead a committee coordinating his administration’s anti-narcotics effort, which has killed thousands of people in the last three years.
But like Vice President Leni Robredo, whose bizarre appointment to the same office lasted only 18 days, Dante Jimenez said he would seek an audience with the president to clarify what his new job would exactly be.
“I have to ask him and of course, as a member of his Cabinet, I have to ask him clear instructions and at the same time, clear with him all these issues,” said Jimenez, who also heads the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.
Robredo raised a similar question last November but was rebuffed by the president, who told reporters that she should instead read his executive order creating the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
But the document does not mention the position of a co-chair, to which Robredo was designated after she criticized Duterte’s bloody drug war.
This is the same position Jimenez will now share with Aaron Aquino, a retired police general heading the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“I’m still waiting for a meeting perhaps with the president upon his availability,” Jimenez said. “I have to get fresh instructions...”
Many of Robredo’s supporters had described her appointment to ICAD as one designed for her to fail, mainly because she was the lone opposition figure there.
Some ICAD officials also expressed discomfort when she began asking for baseline data on the number of drug users in the country, and updates on policemen involved in questionable operations.
Jimenez said he would also look into such cases but described himself as a “good team player.”
Once he formally assumes in ICAD, he said he would make sure all agencies under it would actually work, noting that having “44” of them was too many.
In fact, the committee has only 20 members representing agencies such as the Department of Justice, the Anti-Money Laundering Council, and the Philippine National Police.
TOO MANY COOKS
“There is a saying that too many cooks spoil the broth,” he said. “Sa dami ninyo diyan... anong ginagawa nyo? Are you just there for a meeting — blah, blah, blah? No. You have to give outputs.”
(There are a lot of you there... What are you all doing?)
During her stint at ICAD, Robredo repeatedly commended agencies, particularly the interior department, for their work in the anti-narcotics campaign.
She later came out with a report describing the drug war as a failure, noting that only less than one percent of the estimated narcotics supply had been seized by the government.
The report also suggested that the PNP abandon its “tokhang” campaign, which listed suspected drug users and pushers, many of whom were killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen or in police operations.
Robredo urged the government to spend more on community-based drug rehabilitation, citing budgets that focused heavily on law enforcement.
“I have to read her report. If there are good points there, good materials to be used, why not?” Jimenez said.