BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and WENDELL VIGILIA
PRESIDENT Duterte on Tuesday night again belittled the abilities of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and her capability to lead the county, and even threatened to campaign against her if she decides to run for president in 2022.
The President, in his weekly public address that aired Tuesday night, spent several minutes of his speech lashing out at the Vice President after she allegedly criticized him and told the lie that he was absent at the height of recent typhoons.
During the recent typhoons, the “#NasaanAngPangulo” (Where is the President) trended on social media. Duterte’s latest attacks on Robredo seemed to have backfired as #DuterteMeltdown trended yesterday.
Robredo said Duterte was obviously fed with “fake news,” again, by his men, as she denied asking the President’s whereabouts during the typhoons.
“Ang basehan niya isang kasinungalingan. Noong tinanggal ako sa Cabinet, iyong kasinungalingan na sinabi sa kaniya sumama raw ako sa isang rally sa EDSA na hindi totoo. Ngayon na naman, hinahanap ko raw siya noong panahon ng bagyo. Hindi rin totoo. Kahit po balikan iyong lahat kong sinabi, lahat kong sinulat, wala pong katotohanan iyon (His basis is a lie. When I was removed from the Cabinet, he was also fed with lies that I joined an EDSA rally which wasn’t true. This time, he accused me of looking for him when the typhoons hit. It’s also nit true. Even if you review everything that I’ve said, all that was written, there’s no truth to that),” Robredo told reporters in Camarines Sur where she brought relief to victims of typhoon “Ulysses.”
The Presidential Communications Operations Office said social media users also supported Duterte after hashtags criticizing his attacks on Robredo trended online. It said #NasaPusoKoAngPangulo trended on Twitter during Duterte’s address. After Duterte’s attacks, the hashtags #DuterteMeltdown, #NasiraanAngPangulo, and #NaasarAngPangulo also trended.
Duterte said Robredo knew he was attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits at the height of Ulysses. He said he was not sleeping on the job and had in fact excused himself a couple of times from the summit to address the nation and do aerial inspections.
He said relief goods and personnel were prepositioned prior to the typhoon’s arrival and several Cabinet officials were already on the ground to attend to the needs of the people and assess the damage after the typhoon struck.
The President said Robredo should not have made the mistake of lying about his supposed absence and lack of action during typhoons.
Duterte also said he knows a lot of things about Robredo who, he said, stays out late at night and has been staying for long hours in someone’s house.
“Next time, do not commit the mistake or I’ll be forced to insult you because you are playing too much… pagpa-beauty ka ng ano. It’s not the time for you. During the campaign, paalis na ako. Sige, subukan mo. (Next time, do not commit the mistake or I’ll be forced to insult you because you are playing too much… You want to look good. It’s not the time for you. During the campaign, I’m on my way out. You try it),” he said.
“Matagal na talaga akong maraming sabihin sa iyo pero ireserba ko na lang. When you start your campaign, kung magtakbo ka ng presidente, waswasan kita nang husto. Well, this is your bad — this is your nightmare. Sabi ko pagka-incompetent mo and you were lying (I have long known a lot of things about you and I am just reserving it. When you start your campaign, when you run for president, I will clean you up. Well, this is your bad, this is your nightmare. As I said you are incompetent and you were lying),” he added.
The President also said Robredo is weak, adding that orders were issued prior to the arrival of the typhoon and not when it is already hitting the country.
“You were presuming that I should be giving orders on the day of the storm. That is stupid.
That is why you cannot become a president, You are weak … You do not give orders on the day of the war. You’d be dead,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.
“I hate to say this, but if you are like that, do not run for president, you are truly weak. You do not know and then you lied. You were not honest,” he added.
The President slammed Robredo for supposedly grandstanding and making it appear that she was the only one working.
Duterte blamed the Vice President for the “#NasaanAngPangulo” (Where is the President) trend, adding that she was well aware that he was attending the ASEAN summit where he even made two speeches.
“I cannot excuse you for not knowing it. You knew that there was a summit going on and you had the gall to say, “Nasaan ang Presidente? (Where is the President),” he said adding that while he was a night person who usually starts his day at 2 p.m., he was awake in the morning of Thursday because he had to attend the ASEAN Summit.
He also warned Robredo against trying to compete with him because she had not done much except call and direct the attention of people to where their help and response is needed.
“So huwag ka masyadong porma-porma, hindi mo talaga panahon. Hindi mo pa panahon. Not time to be making a grandstanding. Hindi ninyo alam na nagtatrabaho ako. Na-timingan lang it was a summit (Do not make postures too much, it is not your time. It’s not yet your time. It is not the time to be making a grandstanding. You don’t know that I have been working. It’s just that there was a summit),” he added.
Robredo and her office have been active on social media during the height of the typhoons to call the attention of authorities to direct them where rescuing and provision of relief assistance are needed.
She also visited some of the victims of the flooding ahead of the President.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo slammed people who he said made it appear that Robredo was a “de facto president” during the height of typhoon and post-relief operations.
Robredo said Duterte based on a lie her firing as as co-chair of the Inter-agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) late last year for allegedly participating in an anti-Duterte rally.
“I am also calling out whoever peddled the fake news to the President, kaya ganito siya kapikon (that’s why he’s this annoyed). I never said, ‘Where is the President?’ You can review all my tweets,” she said in a Twitter post.
Robredo on Friday night called on the military to coordinate rescue efforts in Cagayan where many people needed to be rescued as floodwaters started to rise which was worsened by the release of water from the Magat Dam.
While it is true that the Vice President did not personally look for the Duterte while the typhoons were battering the country, her daughters were among those who posted in Twitter, asking where the President was.
The Duterte administration drew heavy flak for allegedly mishandling twin typhoons “Rolly” and Ulysses, with many people taking to social media to look for the President which later trended on Twitter with the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo.
Duterte, who had been described as a “demagogue” in for his populist style, was also heavily criticized online for saying that he was willing to “swim” with typhoon victims.
Robredo said what is more unsettling to her more than the President’s attacks against her was the fact that the country is being run by the administration based on fake news instead of hard facts.
“Nakakapag-alala lang na isa sa pinakamalaking problema sa Pilipinas iyong fake news, e pati ba naman sa Malacañang? (It’s a cause for concern that fake news is one of the biggest problems of the country now but it’s another story if even Malacañang is involved).
“Bakit iyong pamamahala naka-base sa fake news? Hindi po siya nakakatulong lalo na ngayong sakuna (Why is their governance based on fake news? It’s no helping, especially now that there’s a calamity.”
The Vice President, who is expected to run for president in 2022 as the standard-bearer of the Liberal Party, scored the President for wasting time to attack “at a time when we need to unite and help our countrymen.”
“Parang napaka-untimely iyong outburst na ganoon. Iyong sa akin po, ako, parang mas forgivable pa kung totoo. Ang problema kasinungalingan, e (That kind of outburst is untimely. To me, it would be forgivable if the accusation against me is true but the problem is it’s a lie),” Robredo said.
Robredo, a who is also a lawyer like Duterte, called “unpresidential” the President’s threat to make Robredo’s presidential run a nightmare while claiming that she is too weak to lead the country.
In a separate Twitter, post Robredo posted a photo of her team repacking relief goods for typhoon victims to answer Duterte who asked what she does at night and where she goes home.
“When a President is a misogynist, the conversation goes down to this level. Eto po ‘yung ginagawa namin gabi gabi, nagpupuyat ilang linggo na para, araw-araw, may madala lang na tulong sa mga nangangailangan (This is what we do every night, we’re stay late at night every week so we can bring help everyday to those in need),” she said.
Robredo also said the President’s wrong allegation came just a day after she called out presidential legal adviser Salvador Panelo for peddling fake news, accusing her of using a military C-130 plane in her relief operations which she said was “a 100 percent lie.”
She said Panelo made it appear that she was piggy-backing on the relief operations of the Department of Social Welfare and Development when the truth is she was distributing aid from her office and the private sector.
“Hindi po ako sumakay sa C-130. Mayroon po kaming sariling pamigay. Hindi ko po kailangang mag-ride on kasi maraming private citizens na tumutulong sa atin (I did not ride a C-130. We have our own relief goods. I don’t have to ride on because a lot of private citizens helped us),” Robredo said.
The Vice President also dismissed Duterte’s claim that she did nothing to help the government’s post-typhoon response, saying the people know the truth that such a claim is another lie.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana apologized to Robredo for wrongfully saying she boarded a C-130 plane of the Air Force that delivered relief goods to typhoon-hit Catanduanes two weeks ago.
Citing information from Lorenzana, Panelo said Robredo took the C-130 aircraft when she visited Catanduanes last week. Panelo implied Robredo grabbed credit for the relief operation.
“Yes, she is correct. She never was aboard a C130,” Lorenzana said.
Robredo’s allies at the Senate came to her defense.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said such tirades are uncalled for as what the country needs now amid the COVID-19 pandemic and recent typhoons is unity and cooperation.
Drilon said the pressing issue at present is how to resurrect the economy as millions of Filipinos have lost their jobs due to quarantine measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and how to rise back from the devastation brought by the recent typhoons.
“We should focus on these critical issues. We must all unite to help our kababayan (countrymen). Every hand counts, every action counts and that includes the Vice President.
We should be able to get out of this situation as a whole and as a nation. The 2022 elections should not get in the way of disaster response,” Drilon said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Robredo only wanted to help the typhoon victims and has no other agenda for doing so.
Sen. Leila de Lima said while Robredo is busy assisting typhoon victims, Duterte is pre-occupied with showing rudeness.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, when asked for comment on the President’s tirades, said: “I’d rather not jump into their fray. My 32 years of political experience tells me not to.” — With Victor Reyes and Raymond Africa