Vice President Leni Robredo can use her discretion to give up her concurrent post as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Malacañang said on Friday.
In response to Robredo’s pronouncement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President would only strip the Vice President of her role as anti-drug czar, in case she discloses “classified” matters on the government’s anti-narcotics crackdown.
“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,” the Palace official said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Robredo said she would heed the President’s directives, including the possibility of her being booted out of ICAD.
Robredo’s statement came a day after the President admitted that he cannot fully trust Robredo because the Vice President might divulge confidential records concerning his administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.
Panelo reiterated that Robredo would only be axed by Duterte as ICAD co-chair if the Vice President makes a move “that imperils the safety and general welfare of the Filipino people.”
Panelo said it could be considered “uncivil” or “unethical” for Robredo to challenge the President to demand her resignation.
“It may not be civil nor ethical for VP Leni to taunt or dare the President in demanding the latter to tell her that he does not want her for the job she was appointed to or that he wants her to resign from her current post,” he said.
“Such taunting and daring only make it appear that PRRD (President Rodrigo R. Duterte) owes her for appointing her as anti-illegal drug czar,” Panelo added.
Duterte delegated Robredo to lead ICAD, along with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director-General Aaron Aquino until June 30, 2022, after the President was piqued by her previous remarks that drug war is “obviously not working.”
The President appointed Robredo as ICAD co-chair through a memorandum signed on October 31.
Duterte earlier opted to give Robredo a Cabinet rank, but later on changed his mind, as he acknowledged that Robredo, whom he called a “scatterbrain” with “kneejerk” impulses, is leading the opposition and seeking advice from foreign entities who are critical of the Philippines’ drug war.
Panelo said there Robredo was the only person to blame if Duterte loses his trust in her.
“If she is smarting from the remarks of PRRD of not trusting her to have access to classified information, she has only herself to blame,” he said.
“Without first inquiring as to the scope of her authority, which she could have easily done by requesting an audience with the President, she instead went full steam in consulting or inviting foreign institutions and personalities, some of whom have already prejudged the war on drugs as a violation of human rights and crime against humanity,” Panelo added.
Robredo earlier said she would be meeting with the officials of the United States and the United Nations to get their insights to improve the Philippines’ anti-narcotics campaign.
Instead of showing respect to Duterte, Panelo said Robredo showed “red flags” that could not be ignored by the President.
“In addition, she demanded full access to confidential matters that involve state security. Those red flags did not inspire confidence on her person, which the Chief Executive could not just brush off,” he said.
Robredo appears to be ‘oblivious’
Panelo said Robredo seemed to be “displaying her lack of care about the work assigned to her,” adding that the Vice President refused to do her job alone as ICAD co-chair.
“She certainly is much better off if she chooses to be her own person as when she accepted the position of anti-drug czar against the unanimous advice of opposition stalwarts,” he said.
“This time, however, she opted to heed the advice of those presently surrounding her whose political motivations are glaring, to which VP Leni seems to be oblivious of,” Duterte’s spokesman added.
Panelo said Robredo did not even realize that she has been listening to the advice of her allies “who are eyeing the presidency in 2022 and who obviously want her to fail in her new job this early, to eliminate her from the race.”
“Now the question haunting her is: Will she or will she not? Quo Vadis (Where are you going) VP Leni?” Panelo said.