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Did Vice-President Leni Robredo just make a bad judgment?

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Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.

Musings

In accepting the job of co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs (ICAD), Vice-President Leni Robredo said, “In the end, the most important consideration for me is simple: if this is the chance to stop the killings of the innocent and to bring to account those responsible, I will take upon this challenge. They are asking me if I am ready for this job. My question is: Are you ready for me?”

Oh yes, the President and his myrmidons are ready for her. A trap had been set up just for her and a tempting bait dangled. That is why Presidential Spokesman and Legal Adviser Salvador Panelo, Senator/Personal Aide Bong Go, Senate President Tito Sotto, Party-list Representative Michael Defensor and many others were urging her to bite the bait — accept the job, that is — so she can begin to self-destruct.

The position co-chair of ICAD is meaningless, said Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson of the Vice-President. “If you look at the executive order creating (ICAD) the co-chair position is non-existent and has no power,” he explained. Albay Representative Edcel Lagman (no relation, I come from Pampanga) pointed out that the position of co-chair of ICAD is vastly different from President Duterte’s original offer to her to be the drug czar.

This is what the President said when he first mentioned a possible role for Mrs. Robredo in his campaign against illegal drugs: “If she wants, I can commission her to be the drug czar. She has so many complaints. Now if you are better than me, I’ll hand to you full powers over the drug (war). I’ll give you six months. Let’s see if you can handle it.”

It was his angry reaction to Vice-President Robredo’s critical remarks about the President’s war on drugs during an interview with the foreign news agency Reuters. The offer was made in a moment of pique. After the President had calmed down, the offer was watered down to a committee co-chair position, which position has no power. To many political pundits, Mrs. Robredo is bound to fail.

The President’s statement “Let’s see if you can handle it” betrays his serious doubts about Mrs. Robredo’s capability to succeed in containing the illegal drug trade. The President and his minions will see to it that Mrs. Robredo will not succeed to prove that the President was right about his misgivings about her.

As co-chair of a committee she cannot issue directives, much less give orders. She can only formulate policies. ICAD has no less than 20 agencies as members. Before she could formulate policies she has to relate with the heads of those agencies. She cannot formulate policies on her own. She has to obtain the concurrence of her co-chair, Aaron Aquino.

Mr. Aquino does not hold Mrs. Robredo in high regard when it comes to the campaign against illegal drugs. This is what he said of her before she accepted the position offered by President Duterte: “She is bound to fail because the Vice-President has no experience in dealing with law enforcers”

With Mr. Aquino’s estimation of her low, Mr. Aquino would most likely be dismissive of Mrs. Robredo’s ideas and suggestions. The enforcers of drug laws are directly under the command of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director-General Mr. Aquino. Mrs. Robredo has no command authority over them.

The people who elected Mr. Duterte president were those who were inveigled by his overweening promise to eradicate the drug menace in six months, maybe even in three months. He failed to fulfill that promise. Anybody who can succeed in curbing the illegal drug trade to a significant degree would surely win the adulation of the people.

If Mrs. Robredo achieves some success in the war against illegal drugs, her political stock would improve markedly, making her presidential timber. Such an eventually would threaten the presidential aspirations of presidential daughter Sara, and Senators Manny Pacquiao and Cynthia Villar.

President Duterte will do everything to minimize the chances of Vice-President Robredo, or anybody from the opposition, of being elected president for fear of her doing what Cory Aquino, Gloria Arroyo, Noynoy Aquino had done to their immediate predecessors: that is, to file charges of massive graft and corruption, betrayal of the Republic, and/or violation of the Bill of Rights, etc. against them.

Besides, Mrs. Robredo is bound to fail. President Duterte, by his own admission, has failed to rid the country of the drug menace, despite the entire police force pledging blind loyalty to him and the secretaries of justice, past and present, turning a blind eye to the excesses of the police force in putting an end to the illegal drug trade. With no authority over the enforcers of the drug laws and with the head of the PDEA having a low regard for her with respect to law enforcement, ICAD Co-chair Robredo has no chance of success.

The Vice-President herself took cognizance of the dubiousness of the appointment. Said she: “Even if we say this offer is playing politics and that agencies will not follow me and they will do everything for me to fail, I am ready to endure all this because if I could save at least one innocent life, my principles and my heart are telling me, I should give it a try.”

After all, she has nothing to lose, she said. But she has. By accepting the position of co-chair of ICAD, she had lost the confidence of her political allies and civil society groups in her making good judgment. A president lacking good judgment would be disastrous for the country. Civil society groups are now wondering if Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo, as president, would exercise good judgment consistently.

 

Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a retired corporate executive, business consultant, and management professor. He has been a politicized citizen since his college days in the late 1950s.





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