President Rodrigo Duterte has fired Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told GMA News Online on Sunday.
Medialdea confirmed the termination with a one-word text message: "Yes."
In a statement, Malacañang said that the firing "is in response to the suggestion of Liberal Party President, Senator Francis Pangilinan, to just fire the Vice President from her post. This is also in response to the taunt and dare of VP Robredo for the President to just tell her that he wants her out."
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo had earlier also characterized Robredo's asking about her mandate as ICAD co-chair as "taunting" and "daring" the President to say he does not want her in the job.
"If VP Robredo wanted clarification in the scope and limits of her new task, she could have sought audience with the President, which she failed to do. As always, she talked—not with her appointing authority—but right in front of the cameras asking the President on her supposed mandate," Panelo said in Sunday's statement.
"If VP Robredo is really serious in addressing the cause of the drug problem, she should have gone down to the grassroots—talking to the victims, to their families, and to the communities. Instead, she opted to have audience with the United Nations and the United States embassy officials who remain out-of-touch from the realities of the local drug problem on the ground," he added.
However, in the 19 days Robredo held the post, she visited Market 3 in Navotas City, a hotspot in the police’s anti-drug operations; met with reformed drug users in Dinalupihan, Bataan; and went to a drug rehabilitation center in Quezon City.
She has also met with anti-drugs stakeholders such as the Dangerous Drugs Board, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Health.
GMA News Online has reached out to Robredo for comment.
'A need to know everything?'
“She would be asking for the job description. It’s there in the law, it’s the EO creating itong ICAD. Nandiyan lang, basahin lang niya ‘yan, it’s all there and that’s where she would really exercise her duty,” Duterte told reporters.
“Is there a need for you, Leni, to know everything? I don’t think it’s good,” he added.
Duterte had said that he would make Robredo the country's "drug czar" and give her law enforcement powers after Robredo criticized the administration's bloody anti-drugs campaign, saying that it is not working since the number of drug users and traffickers are still rising despite it.
Just hours earlier on Sunday, Robredo said that while the President may fire her, she would not leave the post by resigning.
"Siya din iyong may kapangyarihan na tanggalin ako," she said of Duterte. "Ako, siyempre, kapag tinanggal ako, wala naman ako, wala akong magagawa. Pero hindi ako magre-resign, dahil ngayon pa—ngayon pa na ang dami kong nakita na kailangan pang gawin, ngayon pa na tingin ko marami akong maitutulong. Kaya habang hindi pa ako tinatanggal, gagawin ko iyong trabaho ko."
'I cannot trust her'
Duterte has been critical of Robredo in the days since he appointed her to the position, saying he does not trust her and keeping the list of high-value drug targets from her.
He also said that certain information should only be given to her on a "need to know" basis.
He also threatened to fire her if she revealed "state secrets" after Robredo met with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), community-based advocacy groups, and US Embassy officials to discuss the drug problem in the country.
Late last week the Philippine National Police's officer-in-charge Police Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa said that the PNP supports Robredo as ICAD co-chair.
Asked if he sees Robredo as an ally of the administration’s drug war, Gamboa said: “Of course, oo naman.”
In his statement, Panelo said that Robredo "has not presented any new program that she envisioned to implement. In a campaign where people’s lives are at risk, a day is an eternity. The government can not twiddle its thumb and sit idly hoping for a flash of brilliance from the Vice President.
"It is time to put the issue to eternal rest and bury it in the graveyard of what could have been, as well as dismiss any obstacle that impedes the government to focus on the issue at hand," he added. — BM, GMA News