Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday said she is accepting President Rodrigo Duterte's appointment of her as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).
Robredo announced her decision at a press conference in Quezon City. She did not entertain questions from the media.
“Ang pinakamahalagang konsiderasyon para sa akin ay simple lang: Kung ito ang pagkakataon para matigil ang patayan ng mga inosente at mapanagot ang mga kailangang managot, papasanin ko ito. Tinatanggap ko ang trabaho na ibinigay ng Pangulo," Robredo said.
"Tinatanong nila ako kung handa ako. Ang tanong, handa ba sila sa akin?" she added.
Duterte previously offered Robredo to be a drug czar for six months after she criticized the administration's intensified campaign against illegal drugs, saying it needs reassessment following the deaths of many suspects.
But in a memorandum dated October 31, Duterte said Robredo would serve as ICAD co-chair, which holds a Cabinet rank, until the end of the administration's term on June 30, 2022, unless sooner revoked.
Robredo, however, admitted that the job could be an uphill climb, given her consistent criticisms of the administration’s drug war.
“Mula simula, ang gusto ko ay itigil ang pagpatay sa mga inosente, panagutin ang mga abusadong opisyal tulad ng mga ninja cops at mga nagpalusot ng tone-toneladang shabu, bigyan ng hustisya at boses ang mga pamilya ng mga pinaslang na walang kasalanan, habulin ang mga malalaking drug lords, hindi lang ang maliliit na nagtutulak sa kanto-kanto. Kahit sabihin na nating ang alok na ito ay pamumulitika lamang, at hindi naman talaga ako susundin ng mga ahensiya, at gagawin nila ang lahat para hindi ako magtagumpay, handa akong tiisin ang lahat ng ito,” Robredo pointed out.
“Dahil kung mayroon akong maililigtas na kahit isang inosenteng buhay, ang sinasabi ng prinsipyo at puso ko ay kailangan ko itong subukan,” she added.
The Vice President also clarified that her acceptance of the post does not mean that she would be all praises for the drug war from this point.
“Alam ng Pangulo [na] tutol ako sa pagpatay ng mga inosente, kontra ako sa pang-aabuso ng mga opisyal. Alam niya ang aking mga puna. Alam niya ang mga balak kong ayusin. Kaya kung iniisip niya na sa pagpayag na ito ay tatahimik ako, nagkakamali siya,” Robredo said.
“Simula pa lang, handa tayong tumulong sa ikabubuti ng bayan. Pero kailanman, hindi natin isusuko ang ating mga paniniwala. Seryosong usapan kapag buhay ang nakataya,” she added.
At least 5,500 suspects have been killed in police anti-drug operations under Duterte, excluding those killed by unidentified gunmen.
Robredo's spokesperson, lawyer Barry Gutierrez, earlier described Duterte's appointment of Robredo as ICAD chair as "problematic" since Executive Order 15, which created ICAD, does not provide for a co-chair post.
Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the decision of Robredo to accept her appointment as co-chairperson of the government’s anti-narcotics campaign.
“It’s always a good step forward for any public official who would want to help this country,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
Panelo said the Duterte administration is ready to help Robredo in fulfilling her mandate as co-chair of the ICAD.
The Philippine National Police said it welcomes Robredo's acceptance of the offer.
"As a member of ICAD, the PNP will extend to her utmost courtesy, cooperation and full support towards the attainment of a drug free Philippines by 2022," the PNP said in a statement.
Senators wished Robredo good luck on her new job, with some of them even offering to lend her a hand.
But Senator Christopher "Bong" Go expressed apprehension that Robredo might be "soft" on the drug lords, even as Senator Ronald dela Rosa said the Vice President should be tough in going about the anti-drug campaign.
Liberal Party congressmen on Wednesday also welcomed "with cautious optimism" Robredo's acceptance of the post, adding they "approach this development with cautious optimism and with great pride in the courage and sincerity of our Party Chairperson." —KBK/KG/RSJ, GMA News