Early this month when Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano was at his unseemly best and whining that Vice President Leni Robredo, then newly named cochair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (Icad), was “talking too much,” we wondered if he was panicking at what she might accomplish. As the days wore on, it became obvious by their words and actions that not only Cayetano but also the other worthies who constitute the orchestra of yes-men in the administration were in a panic at what the Vice President may conceivably discover in her systematic approach to the task she was presented with.
Robredo’s removal as Icad cochair has since happened — a development at once predictable (occurring within days after President Duterte, bestirring himself from a long silence, insulted her and added that, being with the opposition, she was therefore not to be trusted) and outrageous (illustrating the complete about-face of the administration that had promised to provide all the support and resources that she would need in her Cabinet-rank post, so-called by Malacañang mouthpiece Salvador Panelo).
The potshots from the orchestra of yes-men are continuing, and Cayetano would doubtless be in there pitching if he weren’t preoccupied dodging the slings and arrows that come with the astonishing incompetence demonstrated by his Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee.
In one breath Panelo says Robredo’s “missteps” as well as her “failure” to present to the President clear plans and programs to fight the trade in illegal drugs cost her the post, and in the next breath he admits that his principal has yet to read the two reports that the Vice President submitted.
The dispassionate observer would concede that Robredo was nothing if not methodical in calling Mr. Duterte’s bluff. Who’s “scatterbrained,” as the President viciously described her? Maybe those who say one thing and then immediately turn around and say another; maybe those who hog a mic for hours, leaving his minions to interpret his words.
Not this woman. After unsettling all and sundry with her acceptance of the grand challenge, Robredo engaged in meetings she deemed necessary toward establishing a data baseline without which — it should be clear to even the slow-minded — the antidrug campaign would be mere shots in the dark. She recorded her acts in reports she submitted to her superior. Apparently, a third report was in process when she got the axe.
From her Icad cochair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director Aaron Aquino, she sought a copy of the list of the administration’s high-value targets. But that logical step flustered the movers and shakers of the antidrug campaign, and Aquino very much so that he rushed to report Robredo’s request to the media.
A curious move, considering that she had made it in private. If he was nonplussed by her request — but why would he, when a knowledge of high-value targets is crucial to the task of someone given by the President “full powers” over the war on drugs — why didn’t he tell her to her face instead of making like he was crying to his mother? Indeed, why, if he, Aquino, weren’t, as the President said stridently of Robredo, “grandstanding”?
The fact is that in the brief time that Robredo held her post in the administration’s war on drugs, she showed what should have been done early on, such as insisting on antidrug cops being fitted with body cameras, meeting with local and foreign officials to forge cooperation in vanquishing the drug scourge, and touching base with local government units in an earnest effort to know the extent of the drug problem said to be bedeviling the country in varying degrees.
She met with pertinent officials in the Bicol Region during her visit to the drug treatment and rehabilitation center in San Fernando, Camarines Sur. She visited the Salaam Compound in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City, considered drug badlands where even law enforcers feared to tread.
Speaking later with reporters, she said the Quezon City government was implementing a “crucial” central database, and was showing Barangay Culiat “what can be done to turn the situation around, with no casualties.”
No casualties. If this was the opportunity to save innocent lives and make the guilty accountable, then she was accepting the job being offered by the President, Robredo said when she announced that she was coming on board.
Incredibly, inexplicably, Panelo now says the Vice President “blew it.” Yet, standing out discordantly from the yes-men rhapsody, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police, says the PNP did not see “missteps” in the Vice President’s three-week stint as Icad cochair.
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