Vice President and newly appointed anti-drug czar Leni Robredo had just willfully taken, not even a mere step, but a jump into a quicksand. And instead of crying for help, the Vice President called for a change of perspectives.
Just days after her acceptance of the appointment as co-chair of Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Robredo has been following the checklist cautiously—urged Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to cooperate with United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in its probe on the country’s drug war, opened the dialogue and took the consultations to different international authorities, and subsequently called for a different approach.
Robredo acknowledging the argument that the drug war does not need to be a war in the first place is perhaps one of the rarest moves of prudence ever done by a politician in the Philippines.
Contrary to popular belief of most Duterte cronies, the “war” cannot be won by sacrificing 6,000 lives. Worse, what makes it impossible to win is it being waged almost exclusively against the poor; there seemed to be no distinction between the victim and the enemy.
More than it being a criminal concern, the issue on drugs is multi-layered. Its criminal aspect is only superficial. Beneath it, lies the health, economic, social, and educational aspects of the issue at hand. It needs to have a comprehensive approach which ranges from poverty alleviation, effective healthcare, employment generation, quality and adequate education, up to social stigma elimination, and more.
With her acknowledgment, Robredo may have started with the right foothold, yet the underlying motive behind the appointment cannot remain unquestioned.
As the chief voice of the opposition, Robredo’s presence alone served as an obstacle in the President’s aim for absolute control of the government. And her outright disapproval of the drug war just twists the thorn already buried deep in the President’s side.
Now that Robredo has become more vocal about the ineffective drug war and that it has concurrently become more apparent to most Filipinos that it has become futile and failure, what would be more strategic for the administration than to utilize a scapegoat? And who better than anyone else would that scapegoat be than the opposition’s leading voice—Vice President Robredo.
With the nearing 2022 elections, this appointment may be a trap set to demolish Robredo. The administration would either paint her as a hypocrite—if she had decided to decline the appointment after her blatant criticism against the drug war—or a failure in the making, should she accept, in this case, she did.
What could Robredo possibly do with just three years left in her term? Could she implement reforms and produce results with the amount of time and resources she’s been given?
The long history of the clash between her and the Chief Executive—where she was asked to no longer attend the cabinet meetings, and when Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council’s (HUDCC) budget was cut off by 19B—has been a solid proof that despite her legitimate efforts, her vision for the country couldn’t materialize.
She had said it herself, the President’s and her “shared commitment to the poor and the marginalized” which would transcend their differences only remains to be nothing but a pretense, at least on Duterte’s side.
With the enforcement agencies such as the police getting involved in a recent drug-related controversy, Department of Health facing budget cuts, back-to-back polio and measles outbreaks, and rehabilitation center construction cutbacks—Robredo, with three years left in her term, may be fighting an already losing battle.
And though a quicksand is not as threatening as it may seem—people don’t get killed by being drowned in it, Robredo isn’t completely hopeless—still, it’s just a matter of time before it solidifies and traps someone for good, Robredo’s every move should be calculated and executed with complete caution.