PHILADELPHIA. Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo reiterated her opposition to the summary execution of suspected drug traffickers and batted instead for more robust government programs to end poverty and improve the people’s quality of life that can provide a more lasting solution to the roots of the drug menace in the country.
“I have always been vocal against it,” Robredo told New York-based Fil-Am journalists that had motored to Valley Forge, Pa. for the 12th NaFFAA conference where she was a keynote speaker last Aug. 6.
“But I am just one voice. We must follow the rule of law. The media can do a lot in creating a mindset that this is not right,” Robredo was quoted by Marivir Montebon, executive editor of the website justcliqit.com.
Robredo flew to the US for her first official trip to strengthen partnerships with Filipino organizations that can help in propagating and supporting anti-poverty programs that she’s started.
She later continued on to San Francisco to meet with various Filipino organizations which the Philippine Consulate General has facilitated. New York Consul General Mario Lopez de Leon Jr. formally introduced Robredo to the press and delegates of the NAFFAA assembly.
Here is the rest of Montebon’s report:
A human rights lawyer by profession, the 52-year-old Vice President said that the outcry against extra judicial killings is not there yet. “In social media, it is quite disturbing that the (spate of killings) is being approved. Is this really what the majority wants?” she asked.
She sounded off the alarm on the growing culture of impunity with the recent murder of an elderly village chief and a policeman in her district. They were gunned down by unidentified assailants who fled on motorcyle. Robredo added that there is a “global phenomenon where there is so much hatred going around.”
“Kakaiba (it is strange). Our voices are not enough,” she said.
Robredo won in the Philippine national elections on May 9 this year, under the administration ticket of Pres. Benigno Aquino III. She and newly elected Pres. Duterte come from competing political parties which makes for uneasy governance.
In a separate interview, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba concurred with the sentiment of the Vice President. “Pres. Duterte must prosecute, not execute,” he said. Taguba is acknowledged for this US Army report on the abuses of Iraqi prisoners in May 2004. His probe into complaints of military and police wrong doings in the Abu Ghraib prison and other US prisons in Iraq cited systemic and illegal abuse of detainees.
The Vice President pointed out that her office will focus on five program areas: hunger and poverty, universal health care, public housing, education, and women empowerment. “As it is, my office will serve as a secretariat to match the needs of people with the private sector who want to help in curbing poverty and improving lives. We have no mandate to implement programs ourselves.”
Robredo explained that the office of the Vice President does not really have a specific executive power unless granted by the President. Administrative and ceremonial functions are the only items given budget and her office is not allowed to execute programs. She was appointed by the President to head the housing and urban development council, a non-Cabinet function.
On its first month of office, Robredo has gathered the baseline information on poverty and housing needs of 20 poorest regions in the country. Emphasizing on the shift of consciousness, she said, “we did not want to count how many children have been fed, we look at the bigger picture of how far we have broken the cycles of poverty. We also do not want to count the number of houses built, because the government has poured in about P50 million to build houses. We want to see the overall picture of urban development where employment, social services and livable environment are in place.”
Robredo cited her project in Naga city where she served as the district representative before winning the vice presidency which caters to immigrants. “The Migrant Heritage Center provides services that secure the safety of overseas workers in recruitment and we also help returning migrants to have a comfortable and decent retirement environment.”
She encouraged the continued support of Filipino immigrants in the US to improve the lives of Filipinos in the country. “I have made a re-thinking of the office of the vice president and I hope that in the next six years, we will bridge your eagerness to help directly to the people and be truly engaged.”
She was particularly enthusiastic about reaching out to the younger generation of Filipinos in America who intend to conduct entrepreneurial and income-generating projects in the Philippines.