Robredo can scrap ‘Oplan Tokhang’: Palace

MANILA Newly-appointed drug czar, Vice President Leni Robredo can scrap Oplan Tokhang if she can suggest more effective ways to solve the country's illegal drug problem, MalacaAang said on Monday.

If she wants to scrap it, eh siya ang (she's) anti-drug czar, kung sa tingin niya mas (if she thinks it's more) effective, mayroon pang mas effective sa Tokhang eh di gawin niya (there are other programs more effective than Tokhang, she can do it), Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

Panelo said Robredo can put a stop to a program that involves police visits to known drug addicts, because it is within her powers as drug czar.

As we have said, we will give her all that she needs. She should be given a wide latitude and she should pursue her own scheme of things in pursuing the drug war initiated by this administration, he added.

He pointed out that just because Robredo was free to scrap Oplan Tokhang, does not mean that she would want to do so eventually.

Hindi natin alam (We don't know). I cannot speculate on what VP Leni wants. We have to wait for her, Panelo said.

Alter ego

Recalling a conversation he had with Duterte on Saturday, Panelo said the President would allow Robredo to take charge since she is now considered one of his alter egos.

Earlier, Duterte said Robredo's drug czar designation is considered a Cabinet post.

Aside from scrapping Oplan Tokhang, Panelo said the President would allow Robredo to implement other changes in the anti-illegal drug operations.

Sabi niya, 'Ibibigay ko sa kaniya, bahala na siya kung anong gusto niya. Basta siya ang (He said 'I'll give it to her, it's up to her what she wants to do. She's) on top of the situation there,' Panelo said, quoting Duterte.

Panelo also said the President would also allow Robredo to seek help from the international communities including the United States or United Nations to review the drug war.

Robredo reportedly met with representatives from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on Monday.

If she feels na makakatulong iyong Amerika sa drug war eh dati namang tumutulong ang mga Amerikano sa atin (that America can help the drug war --America has long been helping us) sharing intelligence is one of them, Panelo said.

Siguro pabayaan muna natin si (Perhaps let's leave) VP Leni in her work, Panelo said.

Asked if Robredo could submit documents on the drug war to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Panelo said: We will defer to the VP kung anong diskarte niya. Hayaan muna natin (what her approach will be. Let's let her do her job).

Panelo, however, said should the ICC insist on forcing its jurisdiction over the Philippines to investigate the drug war, it would mean that they are in violation of their own rules.

He, meanwhile, shrugged off the offer made by former deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division Phelim Kine to help Robredo improve the anti-drug campaign.

Hindi naman siya taga-rito eh (He's not even from here). But you know, all these things have to be deferred to VP Leni as the anti-drug czar, and the ICAD of which she chairs, Panelo said.

Budget increase

The Palace official said Robredo could only completely thresh out the scope of her powers as drug czar once she holds a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.

He said the President is always open to consultation with every member of the Cabinet, including Robredo.

Duterte has already expressed his desire to invite the Vice President to MalacaAang in a meeting, Panelo said.

The President could also replace Robredo if he is not satisfied with her performance as drug czar.

"Lahat naman 'yan puwede, Presidente siya eh (Anything is possible since he's the President). Everybody holds office at the pleasure of the President, all of us know that," Panelo said.

Meanwhile, Panelo said Duterte is also open to Robredo's suggestion to increase the government's 2020 budget for the Philippine Anti-Illegal Drug Strategy (PADS) particularly on areas of rehabilitation.

Kung kailangan iyan, bakit naman hindi (If she needs it, why not), Panelo said.

Robredo earlier said the PHP15-million funding for ICAD is "not enough" to establish more drug rehabilitation centers and drug prevention education. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency