‘I cannot trust her’: Duterte won’t give Robredo full access to classified information

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President Rodrigo Duterte says he cannot trust Vice President Leni Robredo and will only give her access to classified information on a ‘need to know basis.’ (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) — President Rodrigo Duterte said he will only give Vice President Leni Robredo access to classified information on a “need to know” basis, echoing the position of law enforcement agencies wary of giving her a list of high-value drug targets.

"I cannot trust her not only because she is with the opposition. I do not trust her because I do not know her," Duterte said during a late night media briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday.

The President said he is worried that Robredo, as leader of the opposition, might leak classified information about the government, including information about its dealings with China, which kept him from allowing her back into the Cabinet.

“Kung Cabinet member siya and she looks into the records that are classified matters, China, whatever, kung hingiin niya ‘yan, being a Cabinet member she would have access to everything,” Duterte said.

[Translation: If she is a Cabinet member and she looks into the records that are classified matters, on China or whatever, if she asks for it, she will have access to everything.]

The President said he was “discouraged” by Robredo’s first moves as co-chairperson of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) as she spoke with UN officials on the drug war.

"I cannot appoint her as a Cabinet member. If that is the way her mouth behaves, there can never be a position for her," he said.

Duterte then said Bicol has the “biggest drug apparatus.” Robredo said Saturday that the Bicol region has been gripped by a “big” drug problem, and that her hometown of Naga City has become a “transshipment point” for illegal products.

The President earlier said he will fire Robredo if she discloses confidential information to foreign individuals.

Robredo on Monday assured Duterte that she will not divulge classified drug war information with the United Nations and other foreign agencies critical of the administration.

She has also argued that it is part of her mandate as ICAD co-chairperson to get access to this data as she has to ensure the arrest of high-value targets.

The executive order that created the ICAD does not provide for a co-chair post, but does state that among the committee’s duties is to “ensure the … arrest of high-value drug personalities down to the street-level peddlers and users.”

Robredo was in the Cabinet as Housing secretary in the early days of the Duterte administration, but resigned in 2016 after she was barred from attending meetings.

But even outside of the Cabinet, the Vice President still has access to matters affecting national security as she is part of the National Security Council.

No firing Robredo

Despite increasing friction between the two leaders, Duterte said he is not firing Robredo, acknowledging that “she is working.”

He also made clear some parameters surrounding Robredo’s position in the ICAD, saying that he appointed her to give directions and guidance on the government’s campaign against drugs.

He added that he appointed Robredo as ICAD co-chairperson to make the anti-drug campaign “more transparent to her liking.”

Duterte designated Robredo as co-chair of the ICAD after she declared that his administration’s flagship program — the war on drugs — is a failure. He said since Robredo appears to have a lot of solutions, she should try implementing them.

Robredo accepted the position despite being told by her daughters and the opposition not to. She, however, remained cautious, acknowledging that she might encounter difficulty in her new position.

Robredo, the chairperson of the Liberal Party, had been vocal in her opposition to the killings in Duterte's war against drugs — criticisms that the President has frequently brushed off with an expletive.

Duterte has also belittled Robredo's capabilities to take the helm of the country should he step down from office.

He even went as far as suggesting that someone like former Senators Francis "Chiz" Escudero or Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. would do a better job at being president than Robredo.