Robredo needs to ask for higher anti-drug budget: Palace

MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo will have to get the Congress’ nod for a higher budget for the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs (ICAD) in 2020, Malacañang said on Tuesday. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte no longer has the authority to raise the proposed PHP15 million allocated for ICAD next year since the proposed PHP4.1-trillion budget was submitted to Congress.

“The VP wants to augment ‘yung (the) income. The President and I talked about this and he said,’ ‘Yun ang problema, kasi nasa budget na eh. Kung ano ang nandoon sa budget, ‘yun na ‘yun (That’s the problem. It’s been included in the budget, and it can no longer be changed),” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“Kaya Congress na lang ang dapat niyang hingian. Hindi na mababago ‘yun kasi kung ano ‘yung for [next] year, ‘yung PHP15 million, ‘yun na ‘yun. ‘Yun na ang budget (So she needs to ask Congress. The P15 million embedded in the 2020 budget cannot be changed. That’s the requested budget),” he added.

On Sunday, Robredo called for a higher budget to implement Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign, saying the ICAD’s PHP15-million budget for next year is “not enough” due to its broad responsibilities.

Robredo, who will serve as ICAD co-chairperson until end of her term in 2022, said the additional funding would be used for the establishment of more community-based rehabilitation centers nationwide.

Experts with ‘own conclusions’ unacceptable As ICAD co-chairperson, Robredo vowed to stop the “senseless” killings of drug personalities in the country.

She also sought the help of international communities like the United States and the United Nations to improve the Philippines’ fight against narcotics trade.

Panelo said the Duterte government would defer to Robredo when it comes to her ways of handling the drug problem, unless she seeks insights from those who jumped to a conclusion that the Philippines is a “murderous country.”

“[We will defer to her] sa pag-uusap, kung humihingi sya ng mga [advice] on so-called experts (We will defer to her when she seeks piece of advice from the so-called experts),” he said.

“Pero hindi ba sinabi ko rin, ibang usapan ‘yung kapag mayroon ka ng conclusion tapos ‘yung pag-pasok mo ay intrusion sa ating sovereignty (But it’s a different story when you seek an advice from those who already draw conclusion and want to enter the country, an act which could be considered as intrusion into our sovereignty),” Panelo added.

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he would not allow Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy director for Asia, to enter the Philippines.

Locsin made the remark after Kine expressed willingness to go to Manila to help Robredo end the “murderous drug war” waged by Duterte.

Panelo backed Locsin, saying the HRW official deserves to be banned from entering the Philippines.

“I agree. You know why? Because he has already reached a conclusion that this is a murderous country. Tapos sasabihin niya, arestuhin si Presidente Duterte (And he wants the President to be arrested),” said Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.

“Anybody who gives a conclusion that there has been killings, murders without justification eh may problema sila (they have a problem),” Panelo added. Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos /PNA –