A HUMAN RIGHTS group yesterday criticized President Rodrigo R. Duterte for firing Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo as its drug czar “on ludicrous grounds.”
“By firing her on such ludicrous grounds, Duterte reveals he was never even remotely sincere, and exposes his game to appoint her as a total sham,” Human Rights Watch said in an emailed statement.
“Vice President Robredo barely warmed her seat before President Duterte fired her as co-chairperson of the Interagency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs,” its Asia researcher Carlos Conde said.
“Was his offer of involving her in finding solutions to the situation of drugs in the Philippines ever really serious?” he added.
The non government group said Mr. Duterte had not given the vice president a chance to show what she could do to make the campaign against drugs effective “and, most important, nonviolent and rights-respecting,” Mr. Conde said.
But presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo told DZBB Radio that Ms. Robredo “had it coming,” citing her missteps including meeting with officials of the United States Embassy and United Nations.
He also said the vice president disrespected Mr. Duterte by daring him to fire her. Mr. Duterte fired Ms. Robredo on Sunday evening, more than two weeks after she accepted the post.
Ms. Robredo had failed to come up with programs to address the problem on illegal drugs, the presidential palace said.
Ms. Robredo’s Liberal Party said it expected her to be fired. “We knew the president would do it because this was the only way to avoid a big problem that they themselves had created,” Lorenzo R. Tañada, the party’s vice president for external affairs, said in a statement.
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.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said he regretted the vice president’s firing, saying “she was on the right track in addressing the problem of drugs.”
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra also weighed in on the development. “I feel so sad about what happened,” he said. “There was this opportunity for the administration and even the opposition to bond together and put up a united front against a common enemy which is illegal drugs,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vann Marlo M. Villegas