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Robredo's 19-day stint as ICAD co-chair: The search for real drug war numbers

Just 19 days after appointing her to the position, President Rodrigo Duterte fired Vice President Leni Robredo from her post as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

But before she was appointed to the post, Robredo commented that the administration’s drug war is not  working because the deaths of thousands of suspects in police operations have not stopped the steady supply of illegal drugs to the country or reduced the number of drug dependents based on government records.

This prompted the President to offer and eventually name her to the ICAD post—an offer she accepted on November 6 despite the advice of her allies. She argued that if accepting the post would mean stopping drug war deaths, catching high-value targets and bringing those who kill in the name of drug war to justice—the risk would be worth it.

As a result, the Vice President dedicated a huge amount of her time performing her new task at hand.

Here is how she spent her 19-day tenure as ICAD co-chair:

November 8: Robredo convened all government agencies under ICAD in her office, a roster that included her ICAD co-chair, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino. Before their meeting started, Robredo called on ICAD to stop the senseless killings that accompanied the police’s anti-drug operations.

By the end of the meeting, Robredo questioned the integrity of the government’s numbers on drug dependents since various government agencies have differing data.

November 9: Robredo said that the police should be required to wear body cams during anti-drug operations to ensure the integrity of their operations.

November 11: Robredo met with the officials of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Community-Based Drug Rehab Alliance (COBRA) to discuss how to improve community-based rehabilitation centers since government records have shown that 90% of drug dependents in the country are slight or occasional drug users who do not need to be confined in a medical facility for intervention.

November 12: Robredo said that she will meet with officials from the US Embassy in Manila to discuss ongoing measures in eradicating big-time drug syndicates. She believed US intelligence could help in this aspect.

November 13: As scheduled, Robredo met with US Embassy in Manila officials—a delegation that included representatives from US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of State and United States Agency for International Development—for a briefing on US-Philippines counter-narcotics cooperation and potential US-funded programs against illegal drugs.

In a separate statement, the US Embassy said that their meeting with Robredo is meant to assist the Philippine government’s efforts in drug demand reduction.

November 14: Robredo met with ICAD members from Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police officials. After the meeting, Robredo said that based on the reports that the law enforcement authorities gave her, most of the illegal drugs shipped to the Philippines shores are sourced from China, if not Chinese citizens.

November 16: In response to Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police’s refusal to give her the list of high value targets (HVTs) in the government’s anti-drug campaign, Robredo said that the drug war should be data driven and evidence based, but conceded that she can’t force these ICAD member government agencies to give her access to HVTs.

November 18: Robredo met with Department of Health officials and later pushed for separate rehabilitation centers and efforts for drug users and small-time drug pushers to prevent drug users from being involved in drug trafficking.

November 19: Robredo visited Brgy. Market 3 in Navotas City located near the fish port—an area considered drug-infested by the police. The police closed off a passageway in the area because of the drug problem, and the Vice President appealed to the community to help the government in clearing their barangay of the drug trade so that the passageway—where most residents traverse going to school and the barangay hall to avail of basic services—will be opened again.

On this same day, Duterte had a late press conference and said Robredo cannot be appointed to a Cabinet post because she is talkative, scatterbrain, cannot be trusted and tend to spill confidential information to the detriment of national interest.

November 20: Robredo met with officials of PDEA and Dangerous Drugs Board. PDEA chief Aquino offered her access to confidential information on HVTs of the government’s anti-drug campaign, but Robredo refused access pending clarification from Duterte of the scope of her mandate as ICAD co-chair.

Robredo has sent a letter to Duterte asking him to specify the coverage of her mandate. Executive Order 15, which created the ICAD, however, already mandates the ICAD to ensure the arrests of HVTs.

In response to the President’s comments that she can’t be trusted, the Vice President said that the President should categorically fire her if he does not want her in the post.

Robredo, however, clarified that she was not backing down from any challenge.

November 21: Robredo and her ICAD co-chair Aquino went to Dinalupihan, Bataan to attend the graduation of 957 reformists or those who have graduated from a 30-day in-house drug rehabilitation program in Dinalupihan Bahay Pagbabago. During this event, Robredo, Aquino and PNP Region 3 pushed for rehabilitation of drug dependents, saying this would mean a more productive community.

November 22: Robredo visited Brgy. Culiat in Quezon City, also considered a hot spot in the police’s anti-drug operations. There, she met with Brgy. Culiat and Quezon City officials involved in the anti-drug program of the city. Robredo lauded Quezon City’s efforts, saying that the key to preventing drug war deaths in police operations is a unitary, reliable drug list vetted by the police, city, barangay officials and the members of the community themselves. On the afternoon of the same day, the Vice President also paid a visit to Tahanan Rehabilitation Center for drug dependents in Payatas, Quezon City.

November 24: During her radio show, Robredo said she won’t quit as ICAD co-chair since there are a lot of things to be done. She was fired from her post later in the day. The Palace said she was asking for it.

Postscript: As of November 22, Vice President Robredo has submitted two reports to President Duterte in connection with the meetings and consultations she had in her capacity as ICAD co-chair. Her office has yet to receive a reply on these reports. —KBK, GMA News