Palace says VP can scrap ‘tokhang’, ICC still has no jurisdiction
Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday, November 11, met with the officials of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for a briefing on the strategies that other countries employ in fighting illegal drugs.
“I can’t disclose to you all the details of the discussion. Of course some of it is confidential. But in broad terms, what have been covered in the UNODC meeting are the best practices that we can learn from other countries in terms of addressing the drug problem,” said her chief of staff Undersecretary Philip Dy.
He added that the emphasis on the public health approach alongside law enforcement was one of the key findings in other countries that was discussed.
Robredo, for her part, has been urging the Duterte administration to treat the drug problem as a health issue aside from being a law enforcement issue.
The vice president also met with Community-based Drug Rehabilitation Alliance (COBRA), a group consisting of members of academe, civil society groups, and faith-based organizations that pushes for a more public health-based manner in solving the drug problem in the country.
According to Robredo, these were the same groups that her office has been working with since she took post in 2016.
Dy also said that Robredo and COBRA made an agreement about the establishment of more community-based rehab centers.
“The community-based rehabilitation approach is something that is really done in partnership with the local government units. And part of the discussion was how can we support the local government units more, particularly in terms of strengthening the Anti-Drug Abuse Councils and making sure that they have adequate resources and capacity to implement community-based drug rehabilitation programs,” he explained.
Palace, PNP promise support
Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte is ready to provide Robredo everything she needs to perform her responsibilities as drug czar.
According to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Duterte would issue an appointment paper though Panelo could not say when the paper would be released.
He also said that Robredo now has the authority to give her assessment on existing drug war policies like Oplan Tokhang, a knock-and-plead campaign targeting drug offenders.
“VP Leni is in charge so whatever she feels that should be enforced, we will do it,” Panelo said, referring to the question about Malacañang being open to scrapping Oplan Tokhang.
“It is a yes. If she wants it… But I heard her saying tokhang is not that serious or deadly. They were just asking people if they want to voluntarily surrender… If that will be effective insofar as the drug war is concerned, she has been given the authority,” he added.
Further, Panelo said Duterte is willing to provide additional budget to Robredo so she can implement her policies on narcotics.
However, he maintained that the president will not be keeping his hands off the campaign.
“He is accountable to the whole country. If she fails, the president also fails,” Panelo said.
He added that while Robredo is within her rights to consult with the United Nations and U.S. officials on the drug war, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is still banned from investigating the drug war as it does not have jurisdiction over the country.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) also promised to make Robredo “comfortable as possible” in her newly designated role as the administration’s drug czar.
According to PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, they are looking forward to an intensified anti-illegal drug campaign that upholds the rule of law under her leadership.
He added that the PNP is open to studying the recalibration of the drug war.
“In any government approach it should be dynamic because time changes and me, personally, I would like to open up options because we had a drug war which I think is very successful. But if there is a need to recalibrate and maybe touch a few points, study it, then the PNP is open to it,” said Gamboa.