MANILA, Philippines—Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday refused to address her critics, calling them “a lost cause” and discussed issues that plague the nation and herself.
In a two-part interview by GMA News TV’s “News to Go” aired on Thursday and Friday, Robredo, when asked for a message to her critics, who, at the same time are supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte said, “I’m not going to give a message to them because I think it’s a lost cause. It’s a lost cause in the sense that though they don’t know me, they have already judged me and their judgments are not true. Those are not the judgment of the people who know me.”
Robredo said that she’d rather give a message to those who are have open minds.
“I’m thankful to those who are open-minded. Their comments matter to me, even negative ones. It allows us to look into ourselves if we are doing wrong. It’s not right to be praised when mistakes were committed,” the Vice President said.
‘Tokhang for Ransom’
In the first part of the interview aired on Thursday, Robredo said that she raised the ‘Tokhang for Ransom’ controversy to the media even before news of the the kidnap-slay case of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo broke out but was chastised by the Philippine National Police.
She also expressed opposition to giving the PNP a ‘blanket authority’ in its anti-illegal drugs operation, Oplan Tokhang, rogue cops used as cover in their illegal activities.
“This is the danger of giving a blanket authority to the PNP, an agency that we know needs fixing. There are many steps that has to be taken to cleanse the organization. When we give them blanket authority by saying, ‘You won’t face any repercussion. I will look out for you.’ It encourages them (to abuse power),” she said.
“I am all with the president in his war on drugs but I am not okay with his ‘tokhang’. I am not okay with extrajudicial killings. I think there has to be some other ways of doing this,” she added.
The Vice President suggested that the administration look at other countries for example.
“We have seen countries who tried the same route and have been successful. I always say, ‘Why don’t we study the countries who were successful on their war on drugs and derive lessons from their experiences?’”
Furthermore, Robredo called on the administration to take a different route on its approach in suppressing illegal drug trade.
“Until now there are still big drug laboratories being raided. With all those killings in the past six months, it didn’t became a deterrent because the drug trade goes on,” she said.
“It has been six months (since the ‘war on drugs’ was launched) and nothing has happened yet. Maybe we have to rethink (the approach on illegal drugs). What are we doing wrong?” she added.
Following the involvement of some members of the police force in the kidnapping and killing of Jee, Duterte has ordered all government agencies to stop their anti-illegal drug operations.
‘No to martial law’
President Rodrigo Duterte on January 14 said that he will declare martial law if the illegal drug woes in the country would worsen.
Robredo vowed to be vigilant and not let it happen.
“Our 1987 Constitution has been very explicit. Martial law can be declared but only in extreme circumstances,” she said.
“I will actively oppose it (declaration of martial law) and be actively vigilant that this won’t happen until the circumstances require to,” she added.
“The problems brought about by the drug war, under the constitution, is not enough reason for the President to declare martial law,” Robredo said.
She also appealed to the public to be vigilant of the issue.
“We have to be vigilant. The lessons from history should be an enough warning to us that we can’t take the issue lightly,” Robredo said.
Hits and misses
While Robredo criticized some of the Duterte administration’s policies, the Vice President pointed out some of the government projects that she supports.
“We’re on the right track with the peace process. In the sense that we again open the doors to listen to divergent views of not only the Muslims in Mindanao and many others,” she said.
Robredo also praised the administration for retaining the effective macro-economic policies started by the previous administration and the continuation of social protection programs.
“I am open to hear the other proposals being made now. The tax reform package is worth looking into,” she added.
Missing her old job
Robredo admitted in the second part of the interview that she misses her job as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), a position she resigned from on December 5 after Duterte banned her from attending cabinet meetings.
“Being head of HUDCC puts me in a position to really implement changes in the make-up of housing. I saw many problems. I was there for seven months. I had a lot of plans that I wanted to implement but wasn’t able to,” she said
“(Resigning from HUDCC) felt like giving birth to a child and leaving the baby in the hospital,” she added.
On January 25, Duterte gave a deadline to HUDCC, now headed by Secretary Leoncio Evasco, to finish all the housing projects for families affected by Supertyphoon Yolanda by March this year.
When asked if this can be accomplished, Robredo replied, “I think the deadline can be met as long as; one, the agencies involved decide to do away with the red tape; two, my suggestion before I left was to download the money to the local government already because the National Housing Authority can’t do it alone.”
On June 29 last year, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Robredo’s rival in the 2016 Vice-Presidential election, filed an electoral protest to the Supreme Court, asking it to declare him the true winner of the election.
Marcos said that Robredo’s win is a product of electoral fraud, a claim Robredo denied.
The Vice President also accused Marcos of grandstanding.
“What saddens me is it’s being turn into a media issue. The camp of Bongbong Marcos are telling a lot of statement that aren’t true,” she said.
Robredo stressed that she’s confident the Supreme Court’s decision would be favorable to her and asked the public to have faith in the High Court.
“We have to trust (the Supreme Court). This is the institution that is the last bastion of democracy. It will decide what is fair and what is not, what is right and what is wrong. We need to trust the institution. I believe that the (electoral fraud) case will be decided fair and square,” she said.
“We have nothing to be afraid of. We know that weren’t part of an electoral fraud. We believe that no such thing happened in the elections. We think that the elections was generally clean, fair, and honest. We really have the mandate of the Filipino people,” Robredo added.
The Supreme Court is yet to hand its verdict on Marcos’s electoral protest.