MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte is “serious” about his offer to presumptive Vice President Leni Robredo to lead his administration’s intensified crackdown on illegal drugs, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President would not waste his time making a public announcement of his latest challenge to Robredo who earlier called for an end to the “failed” drug war.
“Meron bang hindi serious na ina-announce mo nationally (Is it not serious when you announce it nationally)?” Duterte’s spokesman said in an interview at Malacañan Palace.
“Susulutan pa nga eh. Kung hindi ka seryoso, bakit mo pa susulatan (He would even send a letter. Why would you send a letter if you are not serious)?” he added.
In a speech delivered at the Palace’s Rizal Hall on Monday, Duterte said he would transfer his law enforcement powers to Robredo for six months.
Under the 1987 Constitution, the President is mandated to “ensure that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Duterte’s pronouncement came after Robredo, in an exclusive interview with Reuters on October 23, asked the President to abandon his anti-narcotics drive, saying it was “not working” in stopping the activities of drug personalities in the country.
In a media interview on Monday, Duterte clarified that he would merely let Robredo assume the post of “drug czar” to see if she can do better in addressing the drug problem.
Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said the Chief Executive’s challenge to Robredo was not unconstitutional.
“He is a Chief Executive and enforcer of the law. He can create task forces and appoint people to run it,” he said.
Rejection of offer disproves ‘failed’ drug war
Due to the backlash she had earned following her remarks, Robredo clarified that she only wants a reassessment of the drug war.
Panelo, however, said that Robredo should accept the President’s “special assignment” and take it as an opportunity to “show her mettle.”
“The offer is precisely for the Vice President to be the drug czar, because as the President says, ‘Parang magaling ka yata, oh di sige ibibigay ko sa’yo para makita naman natin kung may magagawa kang paraan (Perhaps, you’re good. Fine, I’ll let you take over to see if you can offer solutions).’ That’s a challenge to her, and I think she should take the opportunity,” he said.
“As we have repeatedly said, you cannot just keep on criticizing the government. You have to support it; you have to offer your own talent and expertise in solving the problems of the land. So this is one rare opportunity,” he added.
The Palace official said Robredo has yet to respond to Duterte’s offer.
Robredo’s claim of Duterte’s “failed” drug war would be proven untrue, in case she refuses to assume the “drug czar” post, he said.
“If she declines, it only shows that it is not true that this war on drugs is a failure and that there should be more or other measures to be undertaken to stop it,” Panelo said.