Robredo takes on PDEA chief’s challenge to join anti-drug operations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 8)— Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday accepted Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino’s invitation for her to join the agency’s on-ground operations—a move that would let her point out the “lapses and defects” in the administration’s controversial war on drugs.

Aquino posed the challenge two days after Robredo accepted her appointment as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD). He noted the move would let Robredo “have a feel” of how law enforcers work on the field.

“Maybe I can ask you to join us in one of our operations. Para (so that) from the planning stage, until such time that during the conduct of operations and after the operations, ma-feel mo Ma'am kung papaano ginagawa ng mga law enforcers natin ang pag-conduct ng operations (you can feel how our law enforcers conduct our operations),” Aquino addressed Robredo during a post-meeting media briefing of the anti-drug committee.

“If you are there on the ground, you will see for yourself kung ano talagang nangyayari doon. And hopefully, from there, makikita niyo kung may mga lapses na ginagawa yung mga operatiba... meron ba kaming mga defects na dapat i-tugma,” the anti-drug agency chief added.

[Translation: If you are there on the ground, you will see for yourself how the operations work. And hopefully, from there, you will see the lapses of our personnel, if there are defects that we need to correct.]

Robredo meanwhile welcomed Aquino's suggestion, saying the body has agreed to take forward-looking measures in the anti-illegal drugs program.

Gustong-gusto ko ‘yan (I like that). Ang suggestion namin sa meeting na ito ay moving forward, paano ba mai-improve on what we already have (Our suggestion during the meeting is that moving forward, what can we do to improve what we already have?), Robredo told Aquino.

“I've always been emphatic about what I don't like about the campaign—the killings, especially because the poor are being victimized, and that was the primary consideration why I accepted the position,” the Vice President added.

VP 'welcome' to join drug sting

Metro Manila police chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas meanwhile said Robredo is welcome to join the operations, as authorities have “nothing to hide.”

Wala naman po kaming tinatago. Anytime sabihin ni Vice President, ‘sama ako,’ then we'll make arrangement. Go ahead. No problem po kami doon,” Sinas said Friday.

[Translation: We have nothing to hide. Anytime the Vice President says ‘I want to join’, then we’ll make arrangement. Go ahead. We have no problem with this.]

The Vice President has long been a vocal critic of the administration’s anti-illegal drug operations, which— according to government data— have killed at least 6,600 people since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016.

The critical stand, however, led her to accept Duterte’s new appointment—as she promised to implement reforms on the administration’s flagship campaign.

RELATED: Opposition wary as Robredo takes on appointment to anti-drug body

President Duterte faces a complaint before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in connection with the war on drugs. Lawyer Jude Sabio filed the "communication" before the ICC in The Hague in April 2017. The court's prosecutor Fatou Bensouda last year launched a preliminary examination on the situation in the Philippines, and depending on the results of that, may decide to start an investigation.

Local lawyer groups have also filed cases before the Supreme Court challenging the legality of Duterte’s administration's anti-drug campaign, which has led to the death of thousands of suspected users and dealers.