By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday reiterated to members of the press in the eastern states that she has openly opposed the summary executions of suspected drug pushers as an effort to sweep off the drug menace in the Philippines. In her watch, she also wanted to see the breaking of the cycles of poverty and improving the quality of life as opposed to merely counting how many hungry children have been fed and houses built.
“I have always been vocal against it. 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,” she said, in a sweet definitive tone at press conference at the Radisson Hotel in King of Prussia in Pennsylvania.
Robredo is in the US for her first official trip to strengthen the partnerships of Filipino organizations to help with the anti-poverty programs which her office has created. She keynoted that 12th national conference of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations in Pennsylvania on August 6 and proceeded 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 Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo to the press and delegates of the NAFFAA assembly.
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 queried.
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. Aquino. 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.
As of presstime, Pres. Duterte has named high ranking officials in the police, judiciary, and executive branch who are involved in the drug menace as extra-judicial killings remain unabated in the ground level.
At the press conference, 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 have we broken the cycles of poverty. We also do not want to count the number of houses built, because the government has poured in about Php 50 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 recuitment and we also help returning migrants to have a comfortable and decent retirement environment.”
She encouraged the continued support of the 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 in reaching out to the younger generations of Filipinos in American who intend to conduct entrepreneurial and income-generating projects in the Philippines.