Duterte wants Robredo to become drug czar: How legal could the move be?

October 30, 2019 - 3:00 PM
President Rodrigo Duterte at the Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base
President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, February 28, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters/File Photo)

Miffed over her criticisms against his banner counternarcotics campaign, President Rodrigo Duterte dared Vice President Leni Robredo to take over the drug war after he transfers his law enforcement powers to her.

ALSO READ: Angry at criticism, Duterte dares vice president to take over law enforcement

“I will surrender my powers to enforce the law. I will give it to the vice president for six months. I’ll let her carry it out, let us see what will happen. I will not interfere,” he said in mixed Filipino and English.

“If she wants, I can commission her to be the drug czar,” Duterte said. “I’ll give her a clean slate, so she will know how easy it is to control drugs.”

There are at least two ways the president can do this legally.

1. Discharge all of his powers, according to Article VII Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution.

Under the Constitution such a move could be an admission that he can no longer perform his duties and responsibilities to warrant the second chief executive to take the reigns.

This is stated in Section 11 Article VII requiring the president to submit a written declaration addressed to the Senate president or House speaker that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Only then shall the vice president sit as the acting president. The exact provision goes:

“Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President.”

The vice president can only assume the presidency in case the following happened to the president: “death, permanent disability, removal from office or resignation,” provided by section 8 of the main charter.

RELATED: Leni Robredo says she didn’t say drug war must stop. Here’s why her stance can be confusing.

2. Make a Cabinet reshuffling

There is something else though that the president can do. If he wishes not to hand over to Robredo his duties and powers, he can delimit the transfer of powers by appointing her to the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace currently chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Robredo can be appointed to the cluster, which also includes:

  • Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea
  • Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles
  • Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año
  • Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
  • Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra
  • National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon
  • Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Salvador Carlito Galvez Jr.

Duterte’s Executive Order 24 issued in May 2017 tasks the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace with:

  1. Protect national territory and boundaries;
  2. Attain a just and lasting peace;
  3. Ensure the welfare of the Overseas Filipino Workers;
  4. Strengthen the rule of law;
  5. Institutionalize an efficient and impartial justice system that delivers equal justice to the rich and poor; and
  6. Advance and protect human rights.

A sign of drug war’s failure?

Duterte’s supporters made use of his dare to poke fun at Robredo, while others perceived it as an excuse that he failed in keeping his promises.

Others noted that this announcement suggested Robredo was right about the drug war from the start.

Robredo has been voicing out her disagreement in using violence in combating illegal drugs since the war began. — with reports from Catalina Ricci Madarang