President Rodrigo R. Duterte yesterday fired Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo as her drug czar after she allegedly failed to improve the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.
“She wasted such opportunity and used the same as a platform to attack the methods undertaken by this Administration,” presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.
“Such tack was even motivated by hubris to prove their past arguments against the anti-illegal drug operations were correct,” he said. “It at once crumbled as her request for police data validated the falsity of their arguments that the extra-judicial killings are state-sponsored.”
Ms. Robredo this month said she had agreed to head the Duterte administration’s anti-illegal drug campaign, if only to stop the killings. She accepted the post against the advice of many of her party mates, who said the appointment might be a trap.
The opposition leader has vowed to enforce the state’s anti-illegal drug campaign within the bounds of the law. She said she would treat the drug problem not only as a crime, but also as a health issue.
Philippine police have said they have killed about 6,000 people in illegal drug raids, many of them resisting arrest. Some local nongovernmental organizations and the national Commission on Human Rights have placed the death toll at more than 27,000.
“The appointment and the eventual firing of VP Leni as anti-drug co-chair prove what we have been saying all along: Both the war on drugs and the appointment of the vice president… are bluff and bluster,” the Liberal Party said in an emailed statement.
“Their scheme to make VP Leni look weak backfired. Just two weeks after her appointment, she has shown courage and competence in facing the problem at hand and redirected the anti-drug war track from a criminal justice issue to a public health problem,” it said.
Ms. Robredo had criticized the government’s deadly war on drugs, saying it needed to be reassessed given the rising number of drug dependents.
She also sought confidential information about the drug campaign, but the government refused to give her access.
Mr. Panelo said firing Ms. Robredo was a “response” to the suggestion of Senator Francis N. Pangilinan on Friday to fire her instead of insulting her. The lawmaker earlier said the president’s statement that he didn’t trust Ms. Robredo was an insult.
“The president has been more than patient enough, giving the vice president adequate opportunity to discuss possible courses of action with him,” Mr. Panelo said. Since assuming the post as Mr. Duterte’s drug czar more than two weeks ago, Ms. Robredo had “not presented any new program that she envisioned to implement,” he said.
“In a campaign where people’s lives are at risk, a day is an eternity. The government cannot twiddle its thumb and sit idly hoping for a flash of brilliance from the vice president,” he added.
After accepting the post, Ms. Robredo met with US Embassy and United Nations officials to discuss the drug war, which majority of Filipinos support even if it has drawn international criticism.