PRRD not inclined to give Leni Cabinet rank after her ‘missteps’

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President Rodrigo R. Duterte

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has reconsidered his decision to appoint Vice President Leni Robredo to the Cabinet after she made “missteps” in her role as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo enumerated Robredo’s three missteps that made Duterte change his mind about giving her a Cabinet post.

“These missteps not only derailed PRRD’s well-meaning intent for the Vice President to be part of the Administration but registered red signs that could not be ignored,” Panelo said in a statement.

First, Panelo said Robredo’s decision to meet with and seek the advice of foreign institutions and personalities who have “prejudged” the campaign against illegal drugs did not sit well with Duterte.

During her first week as anti-drug czar, Robredo met with representatives from the US Embassy and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as part of her efforts to improve the Duterte administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

Robredo also met with members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Tuesday.

Panelo said Duterte also changed his mind because of Robredo’s insistence on getting access to classified information that could pose risks to national security.

He said her having access to classified information could “imperil the welfare of the Filipino people and the security of the state.”

“Her request for unrestricted data to help her fulfill her role is an admission that the earlier criticisms of the political opposition to which she belongs against the anti-drug operations have no factual basis,” Panelo said.

Although initially hesitant, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and Philippine National Police (PNP) have expressed willingness to share classified information with Robredo but only during a closed-door meeting.

Finally, Panelo said Duterte was also disinclined because of Robredo’s “tendency to be generous with acquired information.”

“Being a member of the Cabinet gives Ms. Robredo unlimited access to sensitive State matters which if transmitted by her whether purposely or otherwise could result to adverse consequences, especially since the VP has the tendency to be generous with acquired information and knowledge to others whose predilection may not be in the best interest of the country,” Panelo said.

‘With reservations’

Over a phone interview with reporters, Panelo said Duterte’s insistence that Robredo should not have access to classified information did not mean that he did not trust her, but had “reservations.”

“Since she has talked with certain institutions and people that are supposed to be enemies of the state, to the mind of the President, that’s a dangerous sign. Ibig sabihin (It means), you may not be doing it purposely but delikado (it’s dangerous),” Panelo said.

“Any institution that has already prejudged the war on drugs initiated by the President would be against the government,” he added.

Asked if Duterte considered his decision to appoint Robredo as anti-drug czar a mistake, Panelo said: “It was not a mistake. Anybody who wants to help the government is welcome.”

“That is precisely why that post was offered to her because she had many suggestions, ideas on her mind,” Panelo said.

He said Duterte’s decision to appoint Robredo is not a matter of his trust in her but his desire to listen to her suggestions to solve the country’s drug problem.

“Kahit na wala akong tiwala sayo sa mga classified secrets, kung marami kang ideas how to solve the drug problem papakinggan kita (Even if I don’t trust you when it comes to classified secrets, if you have many ideas to solve the drug problem, I’ll listen to you),” Panelo said.

“It has nothing to do with trust; it has something to do with the effectiveness of your idea. If you can help me, I will get you,” he added.

New suggestions

Even if Robredo would not be appointed to a Cabinet post, Panelo said Robredo could still provide various suggestions to enhance the drug war.

“It doesn’t mean di ka miyembro ng Gabinete, wala kang magagawa. Marami kang magagawa (that if you’re not a member of the Cabinet, you can’t do anything. There is plenty to do),” Panelo said.

“If she has a new program, how to curb, add to the present program, gawin niya then i-present niya sa (she should do it then present it to the) Cabinet,” he added.

Despite being an anti-drug czar for two weeks, Panelo lamented that Robredo has yet to present a concrete plan on how to curb the illegal drug trade.

“When you began criticizing a plan or a scheme that is not working, matagal mo nang di pinag-isipan ‘yun (you should have already thought of an alternative solution),” Panelo said.

Panelo also said not having access to classified information should not limit her ability to be an effective anti-drug czar because the extent of the drug problem is obvious.

“Tayo alam natin ang magnitude ng problema (We know the extent of the problem). The problem confronts us in the eye. What are these? We know for a fact na maraming barangay na infiltrate na yan, maraming police na involved (We know the magnitude of the problem (that many villages have been infiltrated, many police are involved),” Panelo said.

Panelo, meanwhile, said a meeting between Duterte and Robredo is not necessary for the latter to present her ideas to the public. (PNA)

Photo Credit: Philippine News Agency

The Philippine News Agency is a web-based newswire service of the Philippine government under the supervision of the News and Information Bureau (NIB) of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).

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