A twist in President Duterte’s drug war . . .
Since 2016, the Duterte administration in the Philippines has pursued a highly controversial ‘war on drugs’ which has resulted in more than 5,500 reported killings by police. Activists charge that the number could be five times higher. Against this backdrop, Vice President Leni Robredo, a key voice opposing Duterte, has accepted a government appointment as ‘drug czar,’ more formally known as the co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs. Her decision to join the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign raised eyebrows, with allies warning Robredo that it is a trap and an opportunity for Duterte to shift responsibility for the drug war to her.
A puzzling decision from the opposition . . .
Robredo’s acceptance of Duterte’s offer has been met with skepticism, given Duterte’s previous public ridicule of his Vice President. Robredo has asserted that the position is an important opportunity to stop the killings in the drug war and abuses of police power. Others see this as a strategic move by Duterte to absorb Robredo into his anti-drug campaign and thus silence her.
Choosing between China and the U.S.? . . .
Upon starting her new role, Robredo stated that the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines has offered to help in her efforts, a curious development given that President Duterte has preferred to cooperate with China. Robredo also stated her intent to renew relationships between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and its counterparts in the U.S. and other Western countries. This comes after news of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group’s month-long trip to China, where they learned Mandarin in order to contribute to their efforts in addressing abductions of Chinese nationals.