IN his most scathing remarks yet against Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, President Rodrigo Duterte called her a "scatterbrain" with "kneejerk" impulses whom he would not entrust with confidential matters as she could "jeopardize" the republic.
Speaking at a press conference in Malacañang on Tuesday night, Duterte said he would allow Robredo to keep her post as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs (ICAD), but with access to vital government information limited to a "need to know basis."
"I cannot appoint her as a Cabinet member. If that is the way her mouth behaves, there can never be a position for her," Duterte said.
"I cannot trust her not be — not only because — not only ha — so ‘pag nag — not only because she is with the opposition. I do not trust her because I do not know her," he said.
The President said Robredo was a "scatterbrain," has resorted to "grandstanding" and was "treading a very dangerous ground."
He said the actions of Robredo, including planning to invite human rights investigators and talking to certain individuals critical of his war on drugs, were "not inspiring," prompting him to decide against appointing her to the Cabinet.
"She invited even ‘yung mga (those) prosecutors ng (of the) Human Rights commission which we rebuked. Bakit niya papuntahin dito ‘yung prosecutors and all, observers (Why would she allow those prosecutors and observers to come here)? She was grandstanding na eh. It was like a carnival up there. She was talking right and left dito ganun (here)," he said.
"Presidente ka, mag-ganun ka (Are you the President for you to do that)? You will just place the Republic of the Philippines in jeopardy. Alam mo bakit (You know why)? It’s your penchant. Knee-jerk ka eh (You have a knee-jerk reactions)," the President added.
Duterte also maintained that Robredo did not automatically have security clearance to obtain classified documents just because she was Vice President.
"Need to know ka lang," he said. "If she asks for something, give her the half of it. If it’s classified information, there is no need for her to know."
Duterte also expressed concern that if she would join the Cabinet, Robredo may spill state secrets to other people who may use the information for politicking in the elections.
"Alam mo sabi ko election is a noble thing. But politics is always dirty especially if you are on the other side. Huwag mo na lang akong bolahin… Kung anong mapulot mo dito balang araw — two years na lang, and she wants to aspire for the presidency," Duterte said.
"She’s with the opposition and she would be attending Cabinet meetings. In that Cabinet meetings, we discuss mundane matters, we discuss day-to-day matters, we discuss security matters, we discuss critical issues. Ngayon siya kung nandiyan, hindi ko man talaga siya kilala and the way she behaved right after I appointed her does not inspire --- it’s not inspiring," he added.
Duterte said Robredo, as new ICAD co-chairman, could give "directions" and "guidance" to the member-agencies involved in the anti-drug campaign.
"But as ICAD, you can direct. Sabi ko you can give the directions, you can give the guidance. But you do not have to go there and waggle inside the law enforcement process," he said.
Robredo accepted the role as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal (ICAD) earlier this month, which the Palace previously said was a Cabinet-level position.
But in a recent television interview, Duterte clarified that Robredo was not part of his Cabinet despite her designation.
"She is not a member of the Cabinet. I have not appointed her as a Cabinet member," the President said in an exclusive interview with GMA aired on Monday night.
The President also recently threatened to remove Robredo from her ICAD post if she shared state secrets with foreign individuals and groups.
On Monday, Robredo assured the public on Monday that no sensitive information on the anti-drug campaign would be disclosed.
The Vice President has long been a vocal critic of the administration’s anti-illegal drug operations, which— according to government data— have resulted in the killing of at least 6,600 people since Duterte took office in 2016.
Robredo will be serving as ICAD co-chairman until the end of the administration’s term on June 30, 2022, unless sooner revoked by Duterte.
The committee, composed of several government agencies, is assigned to ensure the integrated and synchronized implementation of government's anti-drug campaign.