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Not a gentleman? Aquino denies ‘begging’ VP Leni to stay as ICAD co-chair

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Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino on Monday denied that he begged Vice President Leni Robredo to stay as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD).

“Hindi ko po sinabi na huwag niyang kaming iwan. It was the Vice President who said that she will stay as long as the President wants her to retain her post as ICAD co-chairman. Maybe the VP only got mixed up by the turn of events,” Aquino said.

Aquino’s remarks came after Robredo, in a radio program on Sunday quoted him as saying ‘Maam, huwag po ninyo kaming iiwan kasi maraming nangyayari nung nandyan ka na. Kasi Usec lang ako. (Maam, don’t leave us because many things are already taking place because you are here now. It’s because I am only an Undersecretary)’.

Aquino also said Robredo should have met with the four clusters of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) during her stint as the body’s co-chairperson.

“Well, she met ICAD last November 8 for what she described as “listening exercise. Last November 12, she met the law enforcement cluster. Then she met with DILG, PDEA and Dangerous Drugs Board, which are just members of different clusters. Hindi talaga niya na-meet ang ibang clusters. Yun ang sinasabi kong kakulangan (He didn’t really meet the other clusters. That’s what I’m saying as something she failed to do),” Aquino explained.

Contrary to Robredo’s statement calling him as “supportive in private, dismissive in front of media”, Aquino said he was the one who advised the Vice President to meet the four ICAD clusters one by one to better understand the committee.

“If you remember, I was even the one who asked the VP to join in one of our operations during the first ICAD meeting with VP last November 8 at her office in Quezon City for her to have a full understanding of what the law enforcers are doing,” Aquino said.

Aquino added that while he feels awkward with the VP as his co-chairman, he has to respect her foremost because she was appointed by the President and secondly because she was the Vice President, the second-highest official of the land.

“In fact last December 10, 2019, during the ICAD fellowship, I asked all ICAD members to make the necessary actions on the recommendations of VP Robredo stipulated in her letter to President Duterte dated November 11, 2019 and report the same to the ICAD on January 2020,” Aquino said.

Among her recommendations and urgent concerns are:

-There is an urgent need to have accurate baseline data for the campaign against illegal drugs. In coming up with the accurate baseline, the integrity of the completion of the ongoing 2019 Nationwide Survey on the Nature and Extent of Drug Abuse in the Philippines and the information generated by local ADACs can be considered.

-He said the setting of overall targets under PADS is a step in the right direction; however, these targets are activity-based rather than outcome-oriented. Short-term, quantifiable, and time-bound targets focusing on outcomes need to be created.

Aquino said he has accorded all the respect and courtesy due to the Vice President during her two-week stint.

Reacting to Robredo’s statement that he was not a true gentleman, Aquino said “she is entitled to her opinion”.

For his part, PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Lt. Gen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, said that there is nothing to be worried about Robredo’s findings on the government’s drug war.

He said Robredo has the right to expose whatever she deems to have discovered about the drug war when she was co-chair of the committee.

“The PNP is for law enforcement, we are for anti-criminality. If it’s political in nature, we always do away with it. What we do is we just do our job, we enforce the law, we keep peace and order and we investigate crimes… Gaya ng sinabi ko sa inyo kami po ay gagawa lang po kung ano ang kautusan ng ating Presidente (We will just do as the President says). Whatever is the comment, well, we will try to see kung ano yung mga dapat gawin para sa ganyang mga komento (what we must do with regard to those comments),” Cascolan told reporters during the press briefing when sought for a comment.

On October 31, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Robredo as anti-drug czar to help Aquino co-chair the ICAD.

Duterte, however, fired the Vice President on Nov. 24 after she committed “missteps” such as talking to foreign individuals and groups which he claimed already “prejudged” the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

Robredo earlier claimed she is set to release her findings and observations on the anti-narcotics campaign on Monday despite no longer being part of the ICAD but deferred it, citing concern for the victims of Sunday’s earthquake in Davao del Sur.

Aquino said her recommendations are welcome as long as these are “beneficial” to the committee. (PNA)

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