Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that giving Vice President Leni Robredo full access to drug-related classified documents will supposedly put the country’s security at risk but an executive order states she is entitled to such information.
Panelo claimed that the co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs has the “tendency to be generous with acquired information and knowledge to others,” although he did not present such evidence.
“She wanted access to all documents including classified information. Unang-una, hindi kasama ‘yan sa scope ng kanyang authority. Mayroon mga bagay-bagay na even us members of the Cabinet are not allowed to look into kasi mga classified nga eh,” he said in a radio interview, as quoted by reports.
Panelo added that only top security and intelligence officials are privy to the documents such as the director of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Defense Secretary.
He also said that Robredo’s request, among others, has cost President Rodrigo Duterte to refrain her from being appointed in the Cabinet, an executive body composed of department heads and other agencies.
“Ms. Robredo insistence on getting access to classified information, a revelation of which could imperil the welfare of the Filipino people and the security of the state, added to PRRD’s reconsideration of his earlier desire to appoint her in the Cabinet,” Panelo said.
“Her requests for unrestricted data to help her fulfill her role is an admission that the earlier criticisms of the political opposition to which she belongs against the anti-drug operations have no factual basis,” he continued.
Robredo previously requested to have access to documents relating to the administration’s anti-narcotics campaign, including a list of high-value targets. It was rejected by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
She also gave assurance that her request does not bear any ill intentions as she needed “to know where to start” and have a full picture of the campaign as an ICAD co-chair.
Sen. Ping Lacson, a former police chief, agreed that Robredo should have full access to such documents so that she could effectively perform her duties.
“Being the second-highest official, I think she has the necessary security clearance to handle and she knows the consequences in case she shares it with unauthorized persons,” he said.
VP is entitled to state documents
While Panelo mentioned that Robredo accessing such classified documents and reports could “imperil” the security of the state, an executive order mentions that a vice president is entitled to be privy to such information.
This was pointed out by a researcher from the Financial Times who shared an infographic that lists the members of the National Security Council, the principal advisory body responsible for coordinating and integrating plans and policies about national security.
Panelo is wrong.
Under EO No. 34, Series of 2001, which Duterte has not repealed, the VP is a member of the National Security Council and therefore, allowed access to security issues. EO does not alienate the VP regardless of a Cabinet position. He/she just needs to be VP. https://t.co/zU1yYeN9wb pic.twitter.com/emzOS4XNfg
— Prinz Magtulis 프린즈 (@prinzmagtulis) November 19, 2019
Executive Order 34 (series of 2001) signed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo states that the vice president is a member of the said council who also holds an executive committee position.
The executive committee of NSC has the power to “review national security issues and concerns and formulate positions or solutions for consideration by the NSC.”
It may also “utilize the facilities and expertise of any government agencies and instrumentalities, and promulgate rules and regulations to govern its operations.”
The committee is also expected to serve as an “advisory body” to the chief executive.
The vice president, in particular, does not need to be in a Cabinet position to have access to such information.
Based on Executive Order 115 (series of 1986), the NSC is entitled to access information involving the security of the state. This is highlighted in one of its declared responsibilities:
“To evaluate and analyze all information, events, and incidents in terms of the risks they pose or implications upon and/or threats to the overall security and stability of the nation, for the purpose of recommending to the President appropriate responses thereto and/or action thereon.”
The executive orders can only be repealed if Duterte drafts another one that removes the vice president from the advisory body on security.