President Rodrigo Duterte has fired Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, his spokesperson announced on Sunday, November 24.
According to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Duterte took offense at Robredo’s challenge to tell her directly if he didn’t want her on the government’s counternarcotics body and fire her.
“In effect that was what she was saying, ‘Fire me if you don’t want me.’ You don’t say that to your boss who is the president of the Philippines,” he said during a press briefing.
Panelo also said Duterte fired Robredo for her “missteps” including her supposed failure to present a program of action in her new role as ICAD co-chair in the three weeks she was in office.
“The vice president has [committed] many missteps. Instead of performing her task, the scope of which is outlined in an executive order creating [the committee], she instead opted to talk to foreign nationals, like the U.S. and the United Nations and others who have prejudged the government’s campaign against illegal drugs,” he said.
“All she had to do was present a new program of government with respect to the program on illegal drugs, which means a program that’s better than the one she has criticized as a failure or ineffective, but she failed to do that,” he added.
Panelo stressed that Robredo performed terribly as ICAD co-chair, saying that she should have gone to local communities and asked the people about their problems instead of talking with foreign institutions “which have no firsthand knowledge.”
“Essentially, what the vice president has done is to embarrass our country, apart from detrimentally undermining the government’s efforts to preserve the general welfare.” he stated.
He also said that Robredo wasted the opportunity she had to improve the methods to eliminate the country’s drug problem.
“Unfortunately, she wasted such opportunity and used the same as a platform to attack the methods undertaken by this administration. Such tack was even motivated by hubris to prove their past arguments against the anti-illegal drug operations were correct,” Panelo said.
“It at once crumbled as her request for police data validated the falsity of their arguments that the extrajudicial killings are state-sponsored,” he added.
PDEA, PNP back Duterte’s decision
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Sunday expressed its support on Duterte’s decision to fire Robredo from her post as co-chair of ICAD.
“PDEA respects and believes in the wisdom of the president. Whatever happens, PDEA will continue to carry out its mandate to rid of the country of illegal drugs with utmost sincerity and integrity,” PDEA chief Aaron Aquino, also the ICAD chairperson, said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) also backed Duterte’s decision to sack Robredo.
“The PNP respects the decision of the president terminating the services of Vice President Leni Robredo as ICAD co-chair,” said PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac in a separate statement.
Banac added that the campaign against high-value drug targets “will remain relentless following the rule of law and with utmost respect for human rights.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson, for his part, said Duterte’s action was expected.
“Ho-hum. [It’s] not shocking, not surprising, not unexpected. [It’s] actually boring. A lot of small letter zzzzzzzzz,” he said in a text message.
Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, pointed out that Duterte’s strategy to discredit the vice president blew up in his face.
“When Vice President Robredo called their bluff, they got snared in their own trap. The Duterte government blinked and lost. Vice President Robredo won,” Hontiveros said.
“The appointment and the eventual firing of [the vice president] . . . proved what we have been saying all along: Both the war on drugs and the appointment of the vice president as [co-chair of the interagency committee on drugs] are bluff and bluster,” Pangilinan noted in a separate statement.