Duterte changed mind on Robredo Cabinet post due to ‘missteps’ – Panelo

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) — Vice President and anti-drug czar Leni Robredo's actions — deemed as "missteps" by President Rodrigo Duterte — led her to lose her spot in the Duterte administration, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Tuesday.

Palace cited Robredo's meeting with the United Nations days after he appointed her as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) as one of the reasons why Duterte was reluctant to make her a member of the Cabinet.

"The Vice President talking with — and seeking the advice of — certain foreign institutions and personalities that have prejudged the campaign against illegal drugs as a violation of human rights, as well as a crime against humanity, did not sit well with the President," Panelo said in a statement.

He added that Robredo's request to receive classified information, including the list of high-value drug targets, on the administration's drug war was a "revelation" that she could possibly put the state's security at risk considering she is an opposition leader. Panelo said that if she was appointed in the Cabinet, more crucial information might be at risk of being divulged to critics.

"Being a member of the Cabinet gives Ms. Robredo unlimited access to sensitive State matters which, if transmitted by her, whether purposely or otherwise could result to adverse consequences, especially since the VP has the tendency to be generous with acquired information and knowledge to others whose predilection may not be in the best interest of the country," he said.

The spokesperson said these issues were the reasons why Duterte opted not to place her in his Cabinet.

"These missteps not only derailed PRRD's well-meaning intent for the Vice President to be part of the administration, but registered red signs that could not be ignored," he said.

In a phone interview with reporters, Panelo added that he felt that Robredo was moving too slow. She has only been in the position of anti-drug czar for two weeks, and have yet to have the one-on-one meeting with Duterte to discuss the scope of her position.

Speaking to reporters that afternoon, Robredo said that it does not matter if the position of anti-drug czar is not a Cabinet position.

"Hindi nagma-matter kung Cabinet post 'yun o hindi. Basta sa akin, pagtanggap ko ng trabaho, talagang full steam ahead... Basta ako, ginagawa ko yung lahat," Robredo said.

[Translation: It doesn't matter if it's a Cabinet post or not. What matters is I went full steam ahead when I got the job... that I'm doing my all.]

She also defended her recent meetings with the United Nations and US officials.

"Alam naman natin na kailangan tayong makipagtulungan sa ibang bansa. Hindi natin kayang i-concstrict yung supply kung wala tayong pakikipagtulungan sa ibang bansa kaya napakahalaga yung ating partnerships with foreign governments," Robredo said.

[Translation: We know that we need to work with other countries to restrict the supply of drugs. That's why it's important to have partnerships with foreign governments.]

Robredo added that the Philippines has long cooperated with the US and the UN.

Robredo on Monday morning assured Duterte that she will not divulge classified drug war information with the United Nations and other foreign agencies critical of the administration. But that evening, Panelo said her involvement in the war on drugs does not mean her position has a Cabinet rank.