MANILA (UPDATE)—Allies of Vice President Leni Robredo in the House of Representatives are seeking broad powers for her as she accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to co-chair the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
“If she is given the tools and is empowered by the administration, we can now altogether prove: The war on drugs can be part of the war against poverty—and not a war against poor people. We approach this development with cautious optimism and with great pride in the courage and sincerity of our Party Chairperson,” said House Deputy Minority Leader Kit Belmonte who is a leader of the Liberal Party’s caucus in the Lower House.
Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo believes that if Robredo will be given the right resources and power to perform her new function effectively, she will succeed.
“Sana meron din siyang leeway na piliin ang mga kasama niya sa kaniyang team pwede niyang dalhin ang kaniyang mga tauhan halimbawa and kung puwede sana puwede niya mapili ang mga heads ng importanteng ahensiya tulad ng PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) at DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government), why not?” said Quimbo.
(If she is given leeway to pick her own team that she could bring in and if possible, select heads of important agencies like PDEA and DILG, why not?)
Though a member of the National Unity Party, House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante also hoped that as co-chair, Robredo would be given full authority.
“She must have full authority to do what she must do. She must have her own people kung yan po i-offer ng administrasyon (if that is what the administration is offering) I don’t think there is any problem with the vice president accepting the position,” he said.
“With all of the main problems we are now facing not only drugs we are requesting our leaders to rise above politics,” he added.
In a statement, Belmonte said they know how sincere Robredo is when it comes to work and in advancing the welfare of Filipinos.
“She will never shrink from any responsibility to do what she can to make our people’s lives better. Kaya hindi nakapagtataka ang naging mensahe ni VP Leni: Tatanggapin niya ang posisyong alok sa kaniya, at gagawin niya ayon sa batas at prinsipyo ang trabahong kaakibat nito.”
(The message of VP Leni comes as no surprise: She will accept the position offered to her and would perform her duties based on law and principles.)
Belmonte however admitted that as her allies, they have reservations.
“We know that there are those who might go against the direction she might set. But VP Leni does not play high politics with the lives of our people. We know that her sincerity overcame her own doubts, and it overcomes ours,” he said.
Robredo served in the early days of the Duterte administration in the Housing sector but political differences with the president as they come from rival political parties caused her eventual exit from the Cabinet.
House Deputy Minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said they also have reservations on her acceptance of the designation. But they challenged her to act on extrajudicial killings in the campaign against illegal drugs and investigate those involved in past cases of EJKs.
“VP Leni should also start investigation proceedings on the police officers involved in the more than 5,000 persons killed under Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel," Zarate said.
Robredo, he said, should also work to make public all data involving drug operations to let the people know the truth about the drug war and to facilitate the invitation of UN investigators and other independent bodies to look into the anti-drug campaign of the administration.
Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun, for his part, said Robredo’s acceptance as co-chair of IAC-AID should be a welcome development for the country.
“This is an opportunity for the two foremost officials of the country to again work together, and in this case, on a very critical campaign of the present administration.
Fortun said they would continue to exercise oversight powers to ensure that the war on drugs is effective, comprehensive, and respectful of the Constitution.
“The crackdown on illegal drugs should continue unrelentingly, but always with due observance of the rule of law and due process,” Fortun said.
Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin was optimistic that the appointment change the approach on the war against illegal drugs.
“We expect nothing but best efforts from the Vice President, setting aside political differences, for the good of the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Pampanga governor Among Ed Panlilio said he hopes Duterte is sincere in appointing Robredo as ICAD co-chair.
"In my experience before dealing with jueteng and drugs, you need the full control of the police, military and other government agencies in solving this problem," he said in Tagalog.—With a report from Gracie Rutao, ABS-CBN News