Fighting Back for the People

“Such is the dumbing down of politics in our midst.”

The day Vice-President Leni Robredo was sacked as Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs co-chair by the President, barely a little more than two weeks on the job, Professor Ed Garcia wrote “Fight Back, Filipino”.

Published in the book “Servant Leader Leni Robredo,” Garcia argues how such an appointment was too good to be true. VP Robredo had accepted the President’s dare to lead the regime’s flagship campaign on drugs, and yet she was denied vital cooperation, information, and the resources to tackle the task.

Garcia continues: The signs were there for all to see. All the President’s men seem to have conspired to set up all kinds of obstacles, employing a torrent of critical views even as Vice President Lenin Robredo had barely began her work. She wanted to listen to different institutions that had experience on the drug issues and the stakeholders who were engaged in the work and needed to align their facts and pursue more effective approach.

But such is the “dumbing down of politics” in our midst, that one after another the allies of the President were singing from the same hymn set, Garcia says. They fell over themselves in nullifying VP Leni’s efforts of getting up to speed on the historical task she had decided to do. Thus, when the President himself pointed out the VP’s “missteps” in her first weeks as co-chair of the inter-agency dealing with drugs, insinuating that he never trusted her anyway, it was clear even before he uttered the words that he had decided to let VP Leni go.

Yet, as Garcia observes, even as Leni ran the gauntlet, she did not flinch; and as one brave woman who thrives in the heat of battle, she never for a moment thought of retreat or resignation. It was she who framed her acceptance by announcing that she was ready to work on the task ahead, hoping to save even one human life. She knew all along the limitation she faced. Indeed, she said it best: “I am ready, but the question is: Are you ready for me?”

Apparently, the President and his minions were afraid of the systematic and rigorous method that VP Leni was bringing to the task. She was data-driven, engaging in an evidence-based process and consulting widely. Moreover, she ensured inclusivity in her approach, bringing together a constituency and igniting a “conspiracy of hope” that had hitherto been absent in the campaign against illegal drugs. Here was a woman with rock-solid credentials, geared to bring together the elements of a sustainable program, Garcia says in his essay.

VP was making a difference before she could put together all the elements of a strategic plan that was to be the result of reasoned reflection on dealing with drugs, Garcia concludes. As my good friend Butch Olano, Executive Director of Amnesty International Philippines, said:“

Vice President Robredo used her position to demand bold and real reforms. Her proposals to end the government’s policy of widespread killings were never given a chance.“

Every week, more cracks appear in the Duterte administration’s murderous campaign against poor people. In only a few weeks, Vice President Robredo was able to confront the government with the staggering scale of its own crimes. That is why she was sacked.“

Vice President Robredo did not waste this opportunity. She has tried to save lives, and she has lifted the voices of brave Filipinos around the country who oppose this deadly policy.“

It is absurd for the government to accuse her of not delivering in under three weeks. Three years since taking office, President Duterte himself admits the drugs problem is only getting worse. Each day, the pressure is building for a new drugs policy based on health and human rights.”

VP Leni has been marginalized by the regime, the minions of the President conspiring and mustering everything within their power if only to ensure that she fails in her newly accepted assignment. Yet, in her short stint as co-chair of ICAD, she has demonstrated her mettle, her principled approach to doing things, her sincerity. In the end, the President and his men cannot and were not willing to deviate from the usual and long-held ways of doing things – patronage politics.

VP Leni is more focused on the future, and the future belongs to the young. It is for this reason that now is the time to address the youth. The line has been crossed and what the President’s action has demonstrated is that what we are engaged in is a struggle for the soul of our country. We must strive to retrieve what is best in the Filipino. We must fight back.

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