AS Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo prepares to hold meetings with more foreign officials to discuss the country’s campaign against illegal drugs, Malacañang reiterated its warning that she may be removed as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) if she reveals state secrets.
Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo on Sunday echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that Robredo might be fired if she shares confidential information on the drug war with other countries.
“She may not realize it but she could be treading on dangerous ground. It could be an overreach of the granted authority hence the reminder,” Panelo said in a statement.
He added that “any appointment made by the appointing authority must be exercised strictly in accord with law and never diametrically opposed to the interest and security of the State.”
“Revealing State secrets to foreign individuals and entities as well as welcoming those who have trampled the country’s sovereignty would be damaging to the welfare of the Filipino people, not to mention that under Article 229 of the Revised Penal Code such revelation of privileged information is a crime which has perpetual special disqualification from office, among its penalties,” the Palace official added.
He issued the statement after Robredo demanded access to all documents, including classified data and funding of the program against the illegal drug trade, and welcomed United Nations personalities and the International Criminal Court to the country.
Panelo, at the same time, quashed speculations that the President has started to “clip Robredo’s wings,” explaining that the Vice President was only being reminded of the “limits” of her appointment.
Robredo said she was aware that sensitive information must not be made public, but stressed the importance of transparency.
“Naiintindihan ko naman kung ano iyong mga hindi puwedeng sabihin sa media — kapag sensitive, hindi iyon pwede (I know what information may or may not be divulged to the media, if it is sensitive, that may not be disclosed),” she said in her radio program.
She added that she wants to promote transparency without revealing sensitive information on the drug war.
The Vice President explained that her request for data was part of her mandate, saying that one of her functions was to “ensure the effective conduct of anti-illegal drugs operations and arrest of high-value drug personalities.”
“Paano ko ma-e-ensure nang hindi ko nga alam? Paano ko ito ma-e-ensure na nahuhuli iyong mga high-value targets, kung hindi ko nga alam kung ilan ba ang high-value targets? Ano ba iyong status doon sa pagtugis ng mga high-value targets, ano ba iyong available na impormasyon na saan ba iyong kakulangan (How can I ensure if I do not know? How can I ensure that the high-value targets would be captured if I do not know how many are there? What is the status on their capture, what else is lacking)?” Robredo said.
“Iyong transparency mahalaga iyon, kasi ito iyong nag-i-exact ng accountability sa mga opisyal. Kung tinatago natin lahat, paano natin mapapanagot iyong mga hindi ginagawa iyong kanilang trabaho? Paano natin mapapanagot iyong may katiwalian (Transparency is important because it exacts accountability of officials. If we are hiding everything, how can we ensure accountability of those who are not doing their jobs? How can we hold accountable those who are involved in corruption)?” she added.
Last week, Robredo had a meeting with officials of the United States Embassy and representatives of other agencies such as the International Narcotics Control Strategy group, the State Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the US Agency for International Development.
Robredo said the US officials shared information on their report of the drug problem in the Philippines and vowed to expand support to the campaign in terms of capacity building and intelligence gathering.
She added that she would communicate with leaders of other countries to expand existing partnerships against illegal drugs.
“In fact, kausap ko na iyong embassy ng… iyong ambassador ng Japan, nag-set na tayo ng appointment. Kakausapin natin ang Australia, kakausapin natin iyong Thailand (I have talked to the ambassador of Japan, I have set an appointment. We will talk with Australia, with Thailand),” Robredo said.
“Malaki iyong problema natin sa supply, at karamihan nito talagang transnational iyong problema. May iniikutan talagang ruta, kailangan makausap natin iyong mga bansa (We have a big problem on supply, and the problem is transnational. A drug route is being followed, we have to talk to other countries),” she added.
Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman on Sunday defended Robredo from Palace “threats.”
He said it was “utterly unnecessary” for the President to threaten Robredo of dismissal from her ICAD post if she would reveal “state secrets.”
“Robredo knows only too well that ‘state secrets’ must not be made public nor shared with unauthorized persons in order not to jeopardize national security and she would treat classified information given to her as confidential,” Lagman said in a statement.
He, however, stressed that the “narcolist” should not be kept a secret.
“Why should the narcolist of high profile narcotics traders and users as well as the records of those involved in extrajudicial killings related to the brutal war on drugs be elevated to the status of “state secrets”?” Lagman said.
“No less than Duterte has previously released on several occasions the names of high-profile suspects in the drug list which included businessmen, politicians, generals and police officers, among others,” he added.
“Robredo’s request for a copy of the list of high-value targets and drug addicts is essential and not beyond comprehension,” Lagman said.
He noted that data, including the authentic list of casualties in the brutal war on drugs, were “indispensable in pursuing non-violent and innovative strategies in the anti-illegal drugs campaign.”