VP Robredo wants Oplan Tokhang scrapped

Marje Pelayo   •   November 8, 2019   •   342

A Filipino who had exhibited suspicious behavior raises his arms in front of operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during an anti-illegal drugs operation in Makati City, east of Manila, Philippines, 06 April 2017.Operatives were in pursuit of two alleged drug pushers in the area, as one female suspect was arrested and at least three other individuals were held by authorities after exhibiting suspicious behavior while the anti-illegal drugs operation was conducted. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has started her duty as the newly appointed co-chairperson of the government’s anti-drug campaign.

First in her agenda was to convene all members of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Drugs (ICAD) together with her co-chair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino.

During the press briefing, Robredo called for a replacement of the Operation Tokhang or Oplan Tokhang as a method of apprehending drug personalities.

“Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, parang naka-reach siya ng certain level of notoriety na kapag sinabing ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor,” Robredo said.

(Because of the many senseless killings that accompanied Operation Tokhang, it seems to have reached a certain level of notoriety that when you say ‘Tokhang,’ it is a war against the poor.)

“It is incumbent upon us na mabago iyong kaisipian na iyon. Baka panahon na para pag-isipan natin iyong pagpalit ng isang kampanya na mas epektibo pero walang namamatay senselessly,” she added.

(It is incumbent upon us to change that notion. Maybe it’s time to think about replacing this with a more effective campaign that is without the senseless killings.)

Robredo said she wants to believe that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to hand over the anti-drug campaign implies that the Chief Executive is “open to listening to a fresh perspective about the entire campaign.”

And although she said she wants a vigorous campaign against illegal drugs, it should be within the bounds of the rule of law.

Robredo also emphasized the need to consider the problem of illegal drugs as criminality but a medical and sociological problem.

The Vice President requested to be briefed on the current status of the government’s anti-drug campaign and be provided with access to all data and documents in relation to the program.

“Gusto ko pong malaman kung saan ako magsisimula (I want to know where to start),” she said.

Despite being a staunch critic of the campaign, Robredo commended the ‘successes’ of the administration’s drug war specifically the recent haul of illegal drugs from various operations.

But Robredo expressed concern over the increasing number of drug dependents despite the efforts and resources that have been exerted by all anti-drug agencies working on the campaign.

“Why don’t we re-assess? Ano ba iyong mabubuting ginagawa? Para iyong mga effective na ginagawa ay ipagpapatuloy natin. Pero ano ba yung mga ginagawa na hindi nagbibigay sa atin ng desired results?” she said.

(Why don’t we re-assess? What are the good things being done? So that the effective ones will be continued. But let us think also of the things that we were doing that didn’t bring us our desired results.)

“Iyon ang pag-isipan natin (We should think about those things),” she said further.

After Robredo addressed the media, Aquino requested them to leave to give the Committee time to discuss important matters in relation to their duty.

The PDEA chief promised to take questions from the press alongside Robredo after the meeting.

Palace tells Robredo, Aquino: “Trust is earned”

Robie de Guzman   •   November 21, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – “Trust is earned.”

This was Malacañang’s response to Vice President Leni Robredo and her ally, former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino after they questioned President Rodrigo Duterte’s lack of trust in the vice president despite her appointment as co-chairperson of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD).

In a statement issued on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Robredo must “understand that one’s election to the Vice Presidency does not automatically clothe the occupant with trustworthiness.”

“Trust is earned. The missteps of the VP did not inspire confidence in the matter of keeping to oneself classified information,” he said.

“Her job in leading the agencies involved in the anti-illegal drug campaign requires competence and creativity. Trust comes into play only as regards the non-transmission of state secrets that imperils the safety of the Filipino people and the sovereignty of the country,” he added.

Panelo also said that the president’s expressed remark should not stop Robredo from performing her new task.

“Since she will not be given access to privileged communication, she should not be bothered by the expressed lack of trust by the appointing power with respect to the confidentiality of state matters requiring secrecy,” he said.

“After all, she is tasked to help end the illegal drug trade in the country and not to get secret information of the government to share the same with her foreign and local peers,” he added.

The Palace official also reiterated that despite her being a member of a political opposition group, she was still given the job to co-lead the government anti-drug body to help address the country’s drug problem instead of “endlessly voicing criticisms.”

“Her designation is a call of duty coming from the Chief Executive to end the illegal drug trade in the country, a rare chance given to her, despite her being in the opposition, to help in the campaign against illegal drugs, instead of being a rambunctious critic who cannot see anything good on the war on drugs initiated by this administration,” he said.

Panelo also asked Aquino to focus on his case still pending before the Sandiganbayan, as well as taking care of his health, instead of “touching on a matter related to the dreaded drug menace that he never gave the attention and importance it deserves during his six-year presidency.”

The Palace official earlier claimed that the country’s drug problem “ballooned in magnitude” due to neglect during Aquino’s presidency. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Robredo won’t resign from ICAD post despite Duterte’s lack of trust

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday said she will not step down as co-chairperson of the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD)despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s lack of trust.

Robredo said she will continue performing her task if Duterte will not order for her dismissal from the government’s anti-drug body.

“Dapat diretsuhin na lang ako. Diretso naman akong kausap. Kung ayaw niya na, nagkamali siya sa pag-appoint sa akin at gusto na niyang bawiin, sabihin na lang. Pero habang mayroong ini-expect sa akin na trabaho, gagawin ko,” the vice president told reporters in an interview after her meeting with the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

“Hindi ko kontrolado yung iba. Pero yung experience ko kasi sa ICAD, majority naman nung agencies very cooperative,” she added.

Duterte on Tuesday night admitted he doesn’t trust Robredo, and that he couldn’t appoint her to his Cabinet as she is a member of the opposition and does not know her personally.

“I cannot trust her not only because she is with the opposition. I do not trust her because I do not know her,” the President said.

He also said he is not taking back Robredo’s position, but stressed the limits of her mandate as drug czar, which include giving orders to ICAD.

The chief executive also emphasized that Robredo may only access classified information on anti-drug campaign on a “need to know” basis.

Robredo earlier requested to gain access to drug war information, arguing that it is part of her mandate as ICAD co-chair to ensure the arrest of high-value targets.

She also gave an assurance not to disclose sensitive information to foreign entities critical of the administration.

The vice president, meanwhile, revealed she has refused a briefing from her ICAD co-chair on such data.

She said she met with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Aaron Aquino on Wednesday who offered to discuss with her classified drug information.

However, she refused pending a clear breakdown of her mandate from the president.

Robredo said she already sent a letter to the president seeking clarifications on the scope and limitations of the job he had given her. “He was offering to brief me on some classified matter pero I refused kasi sabi ko hihintayin ko muna yung sagot ni presidente dun sa aking clarification kung ano ba talaga yung limits ng aking mandato,” she said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

Robredo on claim she invited UN prosecutors to discuss drug war: ‘Fake news yun’

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday denied President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that she invited United Nations Human Rights Commission prosecutors to look into the government’s campaign against illegal drugs after she was appointed to co-lead its inter-agency committee.

Robredo said she only met with officers from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, and the United States Embassy in Manila last week to discuss initiatives against illegal drugs.

“Wala akong UN prosecutor na kakilala. Wala akong sinulatan. Wala akong inimbita. Kaya kung may nakarating sa kaniyang may inimbita ako, fake news yun,” she said.

Duterte on Tuesday appeared incensed over a tweet by Phelim Kine, former deputy director for Asia of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, in which he stated his willingness to go to the Philippines to help advise Robredo about her new role as anti-drug committee co-chair.

“Dear VP @lenirobredo – my bags are packed and I’m ready to come to the #Philippines to help advise how to end this murderous “drug war,” Kine said in his tweet posted on Nov. 11.

“Meanwhile here is my Recommendation No. 1: Arrest #Duterte and his henchmen for inciting & instigating mass murder,” he added.

Duterte described Kine as a United Nations prosecutor supposedly invited by Robredo.

“Pati ba naman ‘yang prosecutor and the tweet. Nakita ko yung tweet eh. ‘I am packed and ready to go to arrest Duterte.’ Yan ang imbitahin mo? Ganun ang salita sa akin?” he said.

“She invited even ang mga prosecutor ng Human Rights Commission which we rebuked. Bakit papupuntahin dito ang mga prosecutors and all? She was grandstanding na. It was like a carnival, she was talking right and left na,” he added.

READ: Duterte admits not trusting Robredo

Duterte has been sensitive to criticisms against his administration’s war on drugs, and even decided to withdraw the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute, a United Nations (UN) treaty that created the International Criminal Court following its move in 2018 to launch a preliminary probe on claims that Duterte committed crimes against humanity through his war on drugs.

In July 2019, The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution led by Iceland, seeking to probe the human rights situation in the Philippines amid the administration’s war on drugs.

Malacañang slammed the adoption of the resolution, calling it “grotesquely one-sided” and designed “to embarrass the Philippines before the international community.” — RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

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