After ICAD report, Duterte calls Robredo a 'colossal blunder'

MANILA, Philippines – Irked by Vice President Leni Robredo's report on the government's anti-illegal drug campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte once again lashed out against her, calling Robredo's election a "colossal blunder." 

"She has been there how many days? 18 days? You know I hate to say this, but how many voters are there in the Philippines? Just do away with the 200,000 plus that she got as a majority over [Bongbong] Marcos – it was really a mistake. With a slim margin, you talk big," Duterte said in an ambush interview with reporters in Malacañang on Tuesday, January 7.

"For all of these years, she has done nothing. She is a colossal blunder," he added. 

Robredo beat Marcos by a slim margin of 263,473 votes during the 2016 elections, prompting the latter to allege cheating and file an election case against the Vice President. (A recount by the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal saw Robredo widen her lead over Marcos by 15,093 votes. Marcos has since asked the SC to review the "erroneous" initial recount results.)

What Robredo found: Duterte issued the remarks in response to Robredo's assessment of the drug war, which was publicized after her stint as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD). The Vice President called Duterte's landmark program a "failure" after authorities were only able to sieze 1% of the total supply of illegal drugs in the country.

The Vice President also suggested that the Dangerous Drugs Board chair the ICAD, instead of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

But Duterte refused to consider Robredo's suggestions, saying she had no authority to give them in the first place.

"Kung sakali lang maging presidente siya, gawin niya yan. (If she becomes president, then she can do that.) She does not lecture me. I do not have the slightest – as a lawyer, lecturing on me, well...she should revisit her record," he said.

Opposition strikes back: Senator Leila de Lima and House Deputy Minority Leader Jose Christopher "Kit" Belmonte fired back at the Duterte administration for belittling the report, saying Robredo's findings were "well-researched, data-driven, and a completely objective look" at the government's drug war.

"It is hypocritical of [Presidential Spokesperson Salvador] Panelo to dismiss Vice President Leni because she didn't take part in any ground operations during her 18-day stint when not even the President did so in all of his 3 and a half years in office," De Lima said in a statement on Tuesday.

She added, "Sa sobrang pamumulitika at porma, winalang bahala ang mga datos. Sa pagsantabi sa katotohanan ng war on drugs, panalo ang mga drug lords, talo ang taumbayan. A failure indeed!"

(In overpoliticizing and grandstanding, the value of data is ignored. In brushing aside the realities of the war on drugs, the drug lords triumph while ordinary citizens lose. A failure indeed!)

Belmonte echoed this as he urged the Duterte administration to consider concrete solutions the Vice President offered in her 41-page report.

"Kung seryoso...ang administrasyon sa pagsupil sa droga, tatanggapin nila ang katotohanan at itatama ang kanilang polisiya. Ititigil nila ang walang-habas na pagpatay, dahil malinaw na hindi ito ang solusyon sa droga," he said in a statement.

(If the administration is serious in stopping the drug problem, they should accept the facts and correct their policy. They should stop the killings because it is clearly not the solution to the drug problem.)

He added, "Hindi sila magbubulag-bulagan, at hindi nila ibabaling muli sa politika ang napakaseryosong mga findings ng ulat ni VP Leni." (They cannot ignore and politicize the serious findings in Robredo's report.) – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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