ANGERED by her criticism of his bloody campaign against narcotics, President Rodrigo Duterte said last Oct. 29 that he would turn over his law enforcement powers to the Vice President for six months. Recently, he repeated his offer to Vice President Robredo that he would make her a member of the Cabinet and designate her as “Anti-Drug Czar” so that the drug problems would finally be solved.
The challenge of President Duterte on the Vice President to solve the drug problem is a tacit admission that his more than three years of brutal war on drugs is a dismal failure.
When President Duterte took power our June 30, 2016, he promised the nation to solve the drug problems in six months. After three years and after the extra-judicial killings of thousands of drug suspects, the problems have worsened. No less than President Duterte himself had admitted in March this year, during a campaign in Cagayan de Oro City when he said: “Things have worsened. My policemen are at the brink of surrendering.”
The President’s frustrations on the failure of his bloody drug war have been shared by the Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson, Police Col. Bernard Banac, who agreed with Duterte’s assessment that “the drug situation has worsened, in the sense that international drug syndicates continue to violate our laws and bring in larger volumes of illegal drugs.”
Recently, during a Senate probe, it was alleged by erstwhile top police official and now Mayor of Baguio City, Benjamin Magalong, that top police officials made a tidy business of reselling drugs seized from syndicates, and convicted drug lords being set free.
I don’t think the Vice President will accept the offer of President Duterte. The offer is simply absurd and poses this question: If the President has not been able to solve the problem of illicit drugs in the more than three years with the use of anti-democratic methods and draconian measures, how can he expect the Vice President to solve the problem in six months?
Herein lies the major problem. President Duterte and Vice President Robredo have different approaches to the drug menace. Duterte’s formula to extirpate the drug problem is by killing the suspects as shown, among others, with his instruction to his favourite police official, Jovie Espenido, to “you are free to kill everyone” in his new assignment in Bacolod City.
Vice President Leni Robredo does not believe in violence but in applying the rule of law with utmost respect for the sanctity of human life. Besides, she believes in a comprehensive approach to the drug problem which includes rehabilitation of drug users, eradication of corruption in police ranks, and mitigation if not elimination of poverty in this country.
The offer to Vice President Robredo to act as an “Anti-Drug Czar” is a trap. Once she accepts the position, she becomes an alter ego of the President and she can be removed anytime with the flimsiest of reasons. By this time, Vice President Leni Robredo’s role as a respectable opposition figure and fiscalizer will be shattered beyond repair. (By Democrito C. Barcenas)