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The Long View

Lone voice

Survey after survey has revealed that most Filipinos confess themselves quite ignorant of our Constitution and its contents. Never mind actual procedures and how institutions function. This basic fact struck home in the wake of the efforts of the administration to pin down the Vice President by offering to put her in charge of the so-called war on drugs, only to weasel out of the supposed offer by eventually designating her cochair of a coordinating committee (the grandly named “Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs,” or Icad, Executive Order No. 15, March 6, 2017) created by the President. Its purpose is to “ensure that each member agency shall implement and comply with all policies, laws and issuances pertaining to the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, in an integrated and synchronized manner.”

The same EO explicitly recognizes that the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) is “the policy-making and strategy-formulating body in the planning and formulation of policies and programs on drug prevention and control,” while the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is “responsible for the efficient and effective law enforcement of all the provisions on any dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals, including the implementation of the national drug control strategy formulated by the DDB.” What the President did by means of his order, then, was to require a list of agencies to work together and recognize that the ones calling the shots, so to speak, were PDEA and DDB—which, in turn, serve to fulfill the overall policy and priorities the President himself established.

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In case anyone might suffer from the delusion that they have any wiggle room in this regard, the same EO enumerates a specific list of functions the Icad is supposed to undertake: a) Ensure the effective conduct of anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of high-value drug personalities down to the street-level peddlers and users; b) Spearhead and coordinate the implementation of the National Anti-Drug Plan of Action (Nadpa) 2015-2020; c) Ensure comprehensive implementation of the Barangay Drug-Clearing Program; d) Ensure intensive conduct of advocacy campaign initiatives; e) Ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the member agencies are efficiently and effectively carried out; f) Cleanse the bureaucracy of unscrupulous personnel involved in illegal drug activities; and g) Ensure that the anti-illegal drug objectives of the government are achieved.

The Vice President’s lawyers presumably read the terms of reference of her appointment and she, in turn, has given no room for the usual suspects (the existing members of the committee) to complain that she is straying beyond the confines of the order. So they have taken to picking complaints out of thin air to try to sandbag her, not in terms of what she can do, but how the public perceives what she’s doing.

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This explains the gorilla-style chest-thumping and baring of fangs by senators like Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa, and the weasel-like behavior of the committee cochair (formerly sole chairman), who knows where his institutional bread is buttered and takes his cues directly from the President, regardless of how professional courtesy would otherwise require him to defer to the Vice President. Most recently, the House Speaker has taken to howling at the Veep, too: Not because anyone among them has anything to say, but because the louder they all are, the more of a lone voice the Veep becomes, and that much easier to drown out and ignore.

Because, even if she toes a scrupulously EO-abiding line, her simply doing so makes her a dangerous nuisance to all the other members. If they demand to be held to account strictly according to their own standards, the inconvenient fact they want drowned out is, by their own rules and regulations, they can and will be found wanting. There are strict procedures for conducting operations, including reporting the discharge of firearms and deaths that occur in operations: Where’s the paperwork, where’s the detail?

Even the Supreme Court, in case anyone forgets, has been frustrated on this score, repeatedly, with the Solicitor General playing interference for the cops. There are hundreds of thousands of “surrenderers”: Where are they, what’s been done with them, what is done for them? Government has been content to hide behind wholesale numbers. Same applies to facilities supposedly built. And the eventual truth will out: The paper trail would be damning, if produced; and if not produced, even more damning. The Veep is not an antidrug czar, or czarina, and doesn’t have to be. She only has to do what she says she will do: Hold bureaucrats and cops to account for compliance with what the law actually requires.

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TAGS: Constitution, DDB, drug war, ICAD, leni robredo, Manuel L. Quezon III, PDEA, Rodrigo Duterte, The Long View
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