‘Naging Operation All Talk’: Cayetano says Robredo started 'on wrong mouth’

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FILE PHOTO. House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Vice President Leni Robredo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 11) — Vice President Leni Robredo should keep quiet for “a week or two” and buckle down to work in leading the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Monday.

In an interview on CNN Philippines’ The Source, Cayetano—a known ally of President Rodrigo Duterte—said Robredo started "on the wrong mouth” as the co-chairperson of the government’s anti-illegal drugs committee.

“I’ve been monitoring the last three days and parang from Operation Tokhang, naging Operation All Talk,” the lawmaker said.

Robredo, a staunch critic of the bloody war on drugs, last week held her first meeting as the co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD). She was designated to the position by President Rodrigo Duterte following her remarks on the drug war.

The Vice President has vowed to change the direction of the campaign by implementing a health-based approach and ending extrajudicial killings related to the drive.

READ: Robredo accepts anti-drug czar post, vows drug war policy changes

Pag-upo pa lang, o UN papasukin ba o hindi? Tokhang tanggalin ko, so it’s hard. Then now she’s saying magpapa-briefing sya sa lahat ng departments, lahat ng agencies, eh hindi pa pala nagbi-briefing eh why already all those ideas and criticsms?” Cayetano said.

[Translation: As soon as she sat down, she already talked about a plan to get the United Nations involved and whether Oplan Tokhang should be stopped, so it’s hard. Now she’s saying she’ll have all involved agencies briefed. Why all those ideas and criticisms when there was no briefing yet?]

The lawmaker asked Robredo to “respect the work that has been done in the last three years.”

With Robredo now at the helm, the anti-narcotics campaign should be freed from politics, Cayetano added.

“The success of the ICAD and Vice President Leni is the success of the whole country. Their failure is not only her failure, failure natin lahat (it's our failure),” he said. “I wanna make that clear na dapat tanggalin ang politics whether from the opposition or the administration when it comes to drug war.”

[Translation: I wanna make that clear that politics should be eradicated, whether you're from the opposition or the administration, when it comes to drug war.]

Reacting to Cayetano’s comment, Robredo’s camp called on the lawmaker to just stop undermining the vice president if he could not help in her campaign.

Kung hindi magawang tumulong ni Speaker Cayetano sa ginagawang trabaho ni VP, kahit man lang umiwas muna siya sa paninira,” lawyer Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesperson, said in a statement.

[Translation: If Speaker Cayetano can't help the vice president, he should at least stop undermining her.]

Kailangan ng buong gobyernong magtulungan sa kampanya laban sa iligal na droga. Kung ganito pa lang kaaga mag-aaway-away na tayo, ang mga drug lord lang ang matutuwa,” Gutierrez added.

[Translation: The government needs to work together on the campaign against illegal drugs. If we are not united this early, drug lords will be the ones celebrating.]

Should Robredo join anti-drug operations?

Cayetano said Robredo's presence may just “compromise” on-ground operations.

“She’s in the line of succession, so ‘pag sumama ‘yan hindi pwedeng hindi kasama ‘yung PSG (Presidential Security Group) din, so it will be a little bit messy,” he said.

[Translation: She's in the line of succession, so if she joins operations, the PSG should also come with her. It will be a little messy.]

“To be with the arresting officers and everything, siguro kulang ang apat, limang PSG na kasama nya, baka ma-compromise din ‘yung operation.”

[Translation: To be with the arresting officers and everything, maybe four or five PSG will not be enough. The operation may just be compromised.]

“I think the point of all of that is to say, ‘Ma’am, ‘wag ka muna mag-comment [hangga’t] di mo nakikita ang nangyayari on the ground.”

[Translation: I think the point of all of that is to say, ‘Ma’am, stop commenting until you know what is happening on the ground yet.]

The Vice President has accepted Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino's challenge for her to join on-ground operations, saying the body has agreed to take forward-looking measures in the anti-illegal drugs program.

Government 'successful'

Cayetano maintained that the government is succeeding in curbing the country's drug problem.

The administration’s drug war, according to him, is the country’s “most successful” campaign in the last few decades.

“We will debate that it’s not successful and I would say that since the 1970’s this is the most successful na campaign against illegal drugs,” he said.

Government data show more than 6,000 people have been killed in anti-illegal drug operations since Duterte took office in July 2016. Human rights advocates have called it a war on the poor, saying authorities have not caught big-time drug lords.

Local and international human rights groups say thousands more have died in extrajudicial killings as a result of the President's public pronouncements, a claim Malacañang has repeatedly denied. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court have taken notice of the country's human rights situation