Can't stand the heat? Palace says Robredo can resign from drug war post

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 22 2019 04:03 PM | Updated as of Nov 22 2019 07:58 PM

Vice President Leni Robredo speaks at a briefing at the Office of the Vice President's Office in Quezon City on Nov. 11, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE)- Vice President Leni Robredo is free to leave her work in President Rodrigo Duterte's narcotics crackdown if she is not comfortable with it, Malacañang said Friday.

Robredo earlier said the President should just tell her straight if he wanted to revoke her appointment as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) after Duterte admitted that he could not trust her.

But Duterte's spokesman Salvador Panelo said Robredo should not taunt the President to tell her that he wants her to resign since doing so is "unethical."

"Just like accepting a position, resigning from it solely depends upon the person, and not with the appointing power. If one is not comfortable with it, or cannot stand the heat in the kitchen, the honorable thing to do is to leave the post quietly," Panelo said.

"Such taunting and daring only make it appear that President Duterte owes her for appointing her as anti-illegal drug czar. It is the other way around," he added.

Robredo's role in the government's drug war was offered by the President last month after she criticized the bloody campaign as "obviously, not working."

On Tuesday, the President revealed that he dismissed the idea of giving Robredo a Cabinet post due to the supposed "missteps" she made in her first 2 weeks as ICAD co-char. He even noted that Robredo can "jeopardize" the republic.

The President made the remark after Robredo sought access to the administration's list of high-value drug targets, of which she was denied. 

Despite Duterte's public pronouncement of his lack of trust on Robredo, the vice president assured him that she would continue her work in the ICAD even without a Cabinet post.

"Hindi ko na problema kung di pa sila nagkakasundo sa role ko. Basta sa'kin, lahat na pwede kong gawin, gagawin ko," Robredo told reporters last Tuesday.

(It's not my problem if they haven't agreed on my role yet. For me, what I can do, I will do.)

As to Robredo's remarks that the President should explicitly explain her work, Panelo said she could have requested an audience with the President instead of meeting with foreign organizations.

"[S]he opted to heed the advice of those presently surrounding her whose political motivations are glaring, to which Vice President Leni seems to be oblivious of," Panelo said.

"Those red flags did not inspire confidence on her person, which the Chief Executive could not just brush off," he added.

Robredo's spokesman Barry Gutierrez said Panelo was "confused" as the Vice President "does not mind the heat at all."

"VP Leni has always been ready for the heat. But it seems clear now that there are those who were not ready for her," Gutierrez said in a statement.

Robredo had written to Duterte seeking clarification of her mandate as ICAD co-chair but the President has yet to respond.

- with a report from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News