Panelo denies drug czar post 'non-existent'


Posted at Nov 06 2019 08:22 AM | Updated as of Nov 06 2019 02:05 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte chats with Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo at the sidelines of the 38th Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Commencement Exercises at Camp General Mariano N. Castañeda in Silang, Cavite on March 24, 2017. King Rodriguez, Malacanang Photo/File

MANILA — The appointment of Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of a government committee against illegal drugs is a "golden opportunity" that she should seize, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson said Wednesday, as he denied her camp's claim that the position is non-existent.

Robredo spokesperson Barry Gutierrez earlier said the Vice President will have no real powers as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), based on the executive order that created the panel.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, accused the Robredo camp of "hewing and dodging, giving all sorts of excuses and demands."

He added it is unnecessary to amend the executive order that created ICAD because the President, "as the sole repository of executive power, has the exclusive and awesome prerogative of control over all offices and officials in the Executive Branch."

In appointing Robredo as drug czar, the President "is simply being open to suggestions from a critic of the drug war" because he "believes that there is no better person who can implement such suggestions than the person making them," Panelo said.

"We do not believe that the Vice President is incapable of rising up to the challenge and doing justice to the trust reposed upon her by Filipino people, unless of course she proves us wrong by declining the appointment," the Palace official said in a statement.
"The Vice-President is welcome to the Cabinet. It is a golden opportunity worth taking. This is her moment. She should seize it. Destiny beckons. History awaits her," he added.
Using her new post, Robredo "can well contribute" particularly on the "rehabilitation and reintegration" of drug users, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino said Tuesday.

Robredo last month called on Duterte to allow the United Nations to investigate his war on drugs which she said was “obviously, not working,” prompting Malacanang's challenge for her to lead the drug war.

Some 6,000 drug suspects have been killed in police operations since Duterte assumed office in 2016, but rights groups say the numbers were much higher.