Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday apologized to families of drug war victims, holding herself accountable as the second-highest official of the land for failing to stop the killings that resulted from the government's anti-drug campaign.
The remains of several drug war victims were recently exhumed and cremated, following expiration of their tombs' five-year leases. Robredo attended the turnover of the ashes, promising reparations to those left behind.
"Ang iba sa inyo, nakasalamuha ko na... Ang iba sa inyo, may kaunting tulong na naibigay ang aming opisina. Pero hihingi pa din ako sa inyo ng paumanhin dahil ako Pangalawang Pangulo, pero hindi ko… hindi ko nahinto iyong patayan na nangyari," Robredo said.
"Kasalanan din iyon ng lahat ng nasa pamahalaan na nangyari siya—na nangyari siya habang kami ay nanunungkulan. Ang pinakatulong siguro na mabibigay namin sa inyo, siguruhin na mabigyan ng katarungan iyong pagkamatay ng mga mahal n’yo sa buhay at siguruhin na iyong mga naiwan kahit paano ay may nasasandalan," she added.
MORE ON DUTERTE'S DRUG WAR:
Robredo said although she understood how it feels to have a death in the family, having lost her husband, ex-interior secretary Jesse Robredo, to a plane crash nine years ago, it's incomparable to the experiences of those whose family members were killed in the drug war.
"Bigla-bigla na lang iyong pangyayari at napakahirap para sa amin. Pero iyong dahilan ng pagkawala ng asawa ko ay aksidente. Walang marahil may kasalanan kahit sino. Pero iyong sa inyo, doble iyong bigat, dahil namatay sila sa kamay ng mga dapat sana ay nagpoprotekta sa kanila," Robredo said.
"Nandito lang po ako, nandito lang iyong aming opisina. Kapag may kailangan—o kahit walang kailangan; kailangan lang ng kakuwentuhan—bukas na bukas po iyong aming pinto sa inyong lahat," she added.
Throughout the Duterte administration, Robredo has maintained a critical stance against his anti-narcotics campaign, often calling for a more humane approach to addressing the problem of illegal drugs.
Angered by Robredo, Duterte in 2019 challenged her to head the Inter-Agency Committee Against Illegal Drugs, a role she took on only for 18 days upon the president's firing after she pushed to scrap Oplan Tokhang, which she said has been synonymous to "senseless killing".
The Philippines has come under pressure from the United Nations to investigate allegations of systematic murders of drug suspects, and the International Criminal Court recently announced it would investigate Duterte's anti-drug campaign.
On Thursday, Duterte said he was taking full responsibility for the bloody war he waged that has killed at least 6,000 thousand people, but maintained he will never let himself be tried by an international court.
- With reports from Reuters