MANILA -- (3rd UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte will remove Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of government's anti-narcotic drive should she share classified information with foreign entities, Malacañang said Sunday.
Robredo has met with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and United States officials in her first week as co-chair of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD).
The Vice President also said the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) may investigate if Philippine authorities fail to punish alleged abuses in the country’s drug war.
She had also sought a list of the top drug suspects in the country, which her co-chair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Aaron Aquino rejected.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Robredo "revealing state secrets to foreign individuals" would be "damaging to the welfare of the Filpino people" and a violation of the Article 229 or "Revelation of secrets by an officer" of the Revised Penal Code.
"She may not realize it but she could be treading on dangerous grounds. It could be an overreach of the granted authority hence the reminder," he said.
"Not only is it within the President's discretion but it is his constitutional duty not only to enforce all the laws but to ensure that all his alter egos are performing their respective functions within the scope and ambit of law."
Panelo also denied claims that the President is hindering Robredo's work as ICAD co-chair.
"Such speculations are unfounded as they are unproductive as well. The President is merely reminding VP Leni of the imperatives as well as the limits of her appointment lest she transgresses it," he said.
Robredo had shrugged off Aquino's hesitance to give her a list of the top drug suspects in the country, saying she's used to working with "many limitations."
"Tingin ko wala naman sila tinatago, alam ko naman 'yung hindi dapat sabihin sa media, pero hindi natin idi-divulge 'yung makakasama sa kampanya (kontra droga). Kung tinatago natin lahat, paano natin mapapanagot yung may katiwalian? Nasa function ko rin 'yun," Robredo said Sunday.
(I don't think they're hiding anything. I know what to divulge to the media. If they're hiding everything, how are we going to hold those liable accountable? That's within my function.)
"'Pag hindi cooperative 'yung ahensya, hindi ko na 'yun kasalanan. Pero despite the limitations and attempts na harangan, gagawin ko trabaho na inatas sa'kin."
(If the agency is not cooperative, that's not my fault. Despite the limitations and attempts to hinder me, I will do my job.)
Robredo, however, said she would still meet with counterparts in other countries in the coming weeks.
"Transnational ang pagpasok ng droga dito sa atin," she said.
(The entry of drugs into our country is transnational.)
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, a member of the ICAD, said it was "too early" to assess Robredo's performance but pointed out that the President may remove any of his appointees.
"Her possible removal from the ICAD for whatever cause, like the removal of any other member of the committee, will have no bearing on the work of the committee," he said.
"No one is indispensable in the drug campaign, and there will always be someone better to take his or her place."
Robredo's ally, detained Sen. Leila de Lima, said the Vice President is "intelligent and trustworthy enough" and a "conscientious public servant who knows what or may not be disclosed to the public."
"We see a lot of duplicity here. What vicious political game is Duterte and his men playing this time?" she said.
"What’s emerging as obvious from Duterte’s threat to fire her and the irreverently tasteless remarks we recently heard from his top honchos – Bong Go, Bato Dela Rosa and Alan Peter Cayetano – is that they do not want VP Leni to succeed. They’re simply showing their true colors. Shame."
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said it was unnecessary for the President to threaten Robredo with dismissal and questioned the administration's rejection of releasing the list of high-profile drug traders to the Vice President.
"No less than Duterte has previously released on several occasions the names of high-profile suspects in the drug list which included businessmen, politicians, generals and police officers, among others," he said.