Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte fired Vice President and arch-critic Leni Robredo from her post as the head of his deadly drug war on Sunday, an aide said, just days after calling her a “scatterbrain” not to be trusted with state secrets.
Robredo, 54, lasted less than three weeks steering Duterte’s signature anti-narcotics campaign, which she promised to reform amid allegations police were committing crimes against humanity in killing thousands of drug suspects.
“The vice president resorted to unduly baiting international attention on the matter,” Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement announcing Robredo’s immediate dismissal.
“Essentially, what the vice president has done is to embarrass our country,” Panelo added.
Robredo’s spokesman said he was not aware of her receiving any formal dismissal notice, adding “as usual, announced to media without the courtesy of directly informing [her]”.
Presidents and vice presidents are elected separately in the Philippines, resulting in candidates from rival parties such as Duterte and Robredo ending up in the country’s top leadership – and often colliding on policies.
Robredo, 58, a respected former human rights lawyer and political newcomer, has openly criticised the campaign against illegal drugs that Duterte launched when he took office in mid-2016.
Piqued by Robredo’s constant criticism of his drug campaign, Duterte formalised an offer last month to appoint her as one of two heads of an inter-agency committee that includes the police and the military and is tasked with overseeing and coordinating the government’s efforts to combat illegal drugs.
“She wasted such opportunity and used the same as a platform to attack the methods undertaken by this administration,” Panelo said. “Such tack was even motivated by hubris to prove their past arguments against the anti-illegal drug operations were correct.”
More than two weeks after accepting the post, Robredo “has not presented any new programme that she envisioned to implement. In a campaign where people’s lives are at risk, a day is an eternity,” Panelo said.