Robredo on UN probe: 'Problems should first be solved internally'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 8) — Now that she's anti-drug czar, Vice President Leni Robredo said she wants to get to work first before deciding on whether or not to support the United Nations' investigation into the country's bloody war on drugs.

Right after her first meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs as its co-chairperson on Friday, Robredo made statements contrary to her past expressions of support for the UN probe.

"I have said this time and again that I feel that our problems should first be solved internally," Robredo said in a media briefing. She was alongside her co-chairman, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino.

"If I was already of the impression – after going around, after meeting with the different clusters, after having all the information that I need to have, if I believe that the government is not doing anything to, you know, punish whoever needs to be punished or to put to justice whatever needs to be put to justice – then I don't have any problems with inviting them over," Robredo said.

"In as much as I've always said that if there's nothing to hide then what are we fearful for, but you know, I would rather that we take care of whatever we have to take care of," she added.

Robredo said she prefers to "be informed" with accurate drug war data first, noting that the numbers now are inconsistent and questionable. She cited that a 2016 survey showed 1.8 million Filipinos are drug dependents, but the statistics made public after that, including the 7 to 8 million recently mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte, are merely estimates.

Robredo's previous statements

Robredo in an interview with reporters on Thursday said she planned to push for the government to cooperate with the UN's human rights probe.

According to a transcript provided by her office, Robredo was asked if she would call on members of the ICAD to be open to investigations by the Commission on Human Rights and even the UN. Robredo answered, "isa iyon sa mga magiging panukala ko (that will be one of my proposals)."

She added that her goal is not to point fingers, but to make sure justice will be served.

In a June 9 radio interview, Robredo questioned Malacañang's rejection of calls for a UN probe into the drug war.

"Ito, itong United Nations na human rights experts, iyon iyong dahilan kung bakit nandiyan sila—dahil may mga gobyerno na hindi maayos iyong pagpo-protect sa human rights," she said.

[Translation: United Nations human rights experts are here because there are governments that do not protect human rights.]

"Ako naman, kung ako ang pamahalaan, kung wala naman akong tinatago, iwe-welcome ko iyon. Kasi kapag gumawa sila ng imbestigasyon at wala naman silang nakita, hindi ba parang affirmation iyon na tama iyong sinasabi natin?" she added.

[Translation: If I were the government, if I got nothing to hide, I would welcome that. Because when they conduct an investigation and see nothing, isn't that an affirmation that we're right?]

On July 11, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution asking the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a "comprehensive" review of the killings and other alleged human rights abuses in the country.

Robredo the following day said she would "entertain" UN investigators if ever they come to the country to investigate.

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission head Manuelito Luna even called for Robredo's impeachment for supporting the UN probe, but Malacañang said this was not an impeachable offense.

No more 'senseless killings'

Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at the CHR, UN, and other countries and instutions for comments against his drug war. He has shunned any form of foreign intervention, insisting that the Philippine government can investigate cases of human rights abuses in the country. He appointed Robredo as anti-drug czar out of annoyance after she called for a stop to “wrong” methods that did not bring down the number of drug addicts in the country. 

Local and international human rights groups say thousands more have died in extrajudicial killings as a result of the President's public pronouncements, a claim Malacañang has repeatedly denied. Government data show around 6,000 have been killed in anti-drug operations since Duterte took office in July 2016.

Robredo said the first thing she will do as anti-drug czar is make sure there will be no more "senseless killings" in the government's anti-drug campaign. She's confident this will happen, saying she got the support of the Philippine National Police.

READ: 'Same vigor, zero killings': Robredo bares reform plans as anti-drug czar

Both Robredo and Aquino, however, admitted that they are still confused about what Robredo's duties should be. Aquino said he even wrote the President in hopes of getting enlightened.

"Gusto ko lang ng kaliwanagan kasi medyo naguguluhan rin ako. Kanina nag-uusap kami ni Vice Presidet medyo naguguluhan rin siya dahil how can she have a Cabinet position kung co-chair ko lang naman sa ICAD. These are things I need to discuss with the President," Aquino said.