[OPINION] The implications of Leni Robredo’s ICAD removal

Vice President Leni Robredo’s ingenuity caught Rodrigo Duterte’s regime off-guard – twice.

The first time was when Duterte and his chief mouthpiece Salvador Panelo taunted Robredo into leading the regime’s so-called “drug war” by becoming the drug czar. Political allies warned Robredo about caving in to the Duterte men’s drivel, calling it a trap that was meant to humiliate her, and a plot on the government’s part to legitimize the murderous anti-narcotics drive.

But Robredo eventually accepted it, positioning herself as the besieged leader who would rather lose her political capital if it meant saving another innocent life from Oplan Tokhang – the “drug war” brainchild. Duterte’s senators – Bong Go and Ronald Dela Rosa, the latter the first police chief to oversee Tokhang’s bloody instigation – scoffed at her femininity and heckled her, but to no avail. (READ: Robredo: 'Mother's instinct' made me accept anti-drugs post

Robredo stood her ground, and because of that, Duterte’s show was doomed to fail, and fail it did.

Tensions ensued as Robredo plodded on, specifically after she requested the Duterte regime to declassify the list of high-value targets in the illegal drugs scene.

The tyrant’s men started howling. Contrary to Panelo’s own declaration days earlier regarding the regime’s “support” for Robredo (“Why should [Robredo] not have access? We will give her all the support”), Duterte’s men displayed hesitation in allowing Robredo access to pertinent documents and classified information regarding the “drug war,” asserting that Robredo’s role in the opposition made them doubt her objectives. 

But whose intentions should be rigorously scrutinized? Common sense confirms that hiding is a guilty man’s go-to option to evade accountability. If, indeed, the Duterte regime is free of any direct involvement in either the illegal drugs trade or in the mass murder of innocent Filipinos and small-time criminals, why is there a need to fear or doubt Robredo’s approaches? The Duterte regime’s wailing can speak for itself. (READ: The gamble of Leni Robredo)

Another excuse was the regime’s supposed concern for “national security.” Certainly, allowing a China-backed telecommunications company to build infrastructure near military and police camps won’t raise national security issues, but sharing “drug war” information with Robredo does? This, despite that fact that the Constitution gives Robredo equal right to national security briefings from the government’s security cluster, if indeed this involves national security. 

Interior Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri’s words, in particular, hinted at Malacanang’s dread: “Huwag sanang mangyari na kung may malaman na impormasyon, sana ay walang laglagan (Hopefully, nobody gets thrown under the bus should certain information be revealed)." These words emphasized the fear the President’s gang harbors. Robredo’s discoveries might implicate no less than the Duterte regime itself in the perpetuation of the criminal narcotics trade, and the regime’s culpability in Tokhang’s 30,000 murders. (READ: In Bataan town, drug reformists get second chance in life)

The second time Robredo’s cleverness gobsmacked Duterte was when she publicly dared the Chief Executive to fire her if he sensed discomfort in this entire exercise. Panelo then just framed Robredo’s sacking as the President’s response to Robredo’s dare.

By firing Robredo, Duterte indirectly confesses to complicity in both the illegal narcotics’ trade and in extrajudicial killings. This only substantiates the idea that no drug war had ever existed since 2016, and that it was instead a war against the poor. With the Vice President out of the crime scene, the International Criminal Court might even be convinced all the more that Duterte’s regime hides smoking guns that necessitate formal investigations. 

Duterte had found himself and his cronies in a Gordian knot: if he allowed Robredo to stay, her determination to burrow deeper into the regime’s chasm of secrets might reveal something incriminatory to the public; but if Duterte fired her, public suspicion as to what he was hiding from the public would heighten. (READ: [EDITORIAL] Ang patibong para kay Leni)

Whether this regime exploited this off-the-cuff decision as a smokescreen to distract from the SEA Games mishaps is immaterial, because Robredo had already checkmated Duterte. 

In the final act, Duterte not only lost the political chess match, but it’s obvious that he fears the discovery of the country’s drug Godfather.

The question left is why. – Rappler.com

Karl Patrick Suyat is currently the editorial head of Fiat Publication (the official publication of University of Perpetual Help Systems-Jonelta campus), the Laguna provincial spokesperson for Youth UNBOUND-ST, and a national democratic activist staunchly advocating against historical revisionism, fascism, and injustice.