Philippines’ Duterte to VP Robredo: keep state secrets or lose your ‘drugs tsar’ post

Vice president Leni Robredo, a political rival of the popular president Rodrigo Duterte, accepted a lead role in his brutal war on drugs. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Philippines’ Duterte to VP Robredo: keep state secrets or lose your ‘drugs tsar’ post

  • ‘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’

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to remove the vice president from her “drugs tsar” post if she shared state secrets with foreign individuals and entities.
The warning, which the president made in a television interview, came a few days after he offered Leni Robredo a lead role in his brutal war on drugs, which she later accepted to reassess a campaign she said was fraught with senseless killings.
Robredo, a political rival of the popular Duterte, told Reuters on Oct. 23 that international help, including from the United Nations and International Criminal Court (ICC), should be sought if the government refused to change tack and stop abusive police.
“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,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Sunday.
“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.
Duterte has reacted with fury to a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the killings and responded to a preliminary examination by the ICC by pulling the Philippines out of the organization.
Human rights experts at home and abroad are incensed by thousands of deaths in what police say were sting operations that resulted in shootouts.
Activists dispute those accounts and accuse police of executing suspects based on weak intelligence. Police reject that.
In an interview with GMA News aired on Saturday, Duterte said he would fire Robredo as co-chair of an inter-agency on drugs if she shared classified information because certain matters should be kept with the government.
Robredo met with the officials from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), community-based advocacy groups and US Embassy last week to discuss the drug problem, which she has said must be tackled from a health and social perspective, including prevention and treatment rather than a largely police-centered approach.
Robredo, who was elected separately to Duterte, has long been a critic of his flagship campaign, arguing that thousands of urban poor have been killed, with no sign of progress toward dismantling major drugs networks. She had no immediate comment on Duterte’s remarks.
Robredo, 54, accepted the offer to co-lead the drugs crackdown that has prompted activists to call for international intervention, even though she suspected her rival’s administration would try to thwart her progress.
But Panelo dismissed those concerns as baseless and said the president’s latest remarks were meant to remind Robredo of the “imperatives as well as the limits” of her role.
“Other pessimists contend...the president had begun clipping her wings so as not to fulfill her mandate. Such speculations are unfounded and they are unproductive as well,” Panelo said.


Seoul expands search for official killed by North Korean troops

Updated 23 min 20 sec ago

Seoul expands search for official killed by North Korean troops

  • Officials in Seoul are calling on North Korea to agree to a joint probe into the incident
  • The North had not responded to the call for a joint investigation

SEOUL: South Korea on Monday expanded the search for a missing fisheries official killed by North Korean troops at sea last week, a day after North Korea accused the South of raising tension by intruding into its territorial waters.
South Korea’s military has accused North Korean soldiers of killing the man, dousing his body in fuel and setting it on fire near the sea border, apparently in an effort to prevent the risk of a novel coronavirus outbreak.
Officials in Seoul are calling on North Korea to agree to a joint investigation into the incident, which prompted an apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who said the killing should not have happened.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said on Monday that military hotlines with North Korea should be restored to prevent unexpected incidents. North Korea severed the inter-Korean hotlines this year as relations soured.
Moon called Kim’s apology “unprecedented, very rare and special” and a sign that North Korea did not want relations to worsen. He added that communication must resume to prevent future problems.
As of Monday, the North had not responded to the call for a joint investigation. On Sunday, its state media issued a statement complaining that South Korea’s naval operations had entered its territorial waters in the area, off the west coast of the peninsula, threatening to raise tensions.
“We have never crossed the Northern Limit Line to the North’s side, but there has been differences in how the two Koreas mark the waters,” South Korea Coast Guard Lt. Lee Hong-chear said, referring to a disputed maritime demarcation that dates to the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.
At least six aircraft and 45 vessels were participating in the search, including 36 ships from the coast guard and navy, and nine boats from the fisheries ministry and private owners, Lee said.
North Korea said on Sunday it was conducting its own search for the man’s body, and said it was considering ways to hand it over to the South if found.