BY WENDELL VIGILIA and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR
VICE President Leni Robredo yesterday again deferred the release of her “Ulat sa Bayan” on the government’s war on illegal drugs in deference to the earthquake victims in Davao del Sur and neighboring provinces.
In a press conference at the Quezon City Reception House where she was supposed to deliver her much-awaited report in relation to her 18-day stint as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), Robredo announced that she has decided against delivering the report because “it is a time to unite.”
“Ngayong umaga, naka-schedule sana iyong ating Ulat sa Bayan. In fact, nandito na iyong report. (This morning, I’m supposed to deliver my report to the nation. In fact, the report is here with me now),” she said. “Pero dahil sa nangyari na malakas na paglindol sa Davao del Sur saka sa mga katabing probinsya gaya ng South Cotabato, minabuti namin na ipagpaliban muna (But because of the high intensity earthquake that hit Davao del Sur and adjacent provinces like South Cotabato, we’ve decided to defer it).”
Robredo apologized to reporters, saying the timing would be wrong “because we can do it anytime once we do not have to attend to things like this (calamity).”
Robredo wanted to make public her report and recommendations on the drug war a few days after the conduct of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which the country hosted from November 30 to December 11.
The Vice President earlier said the report, which will cover all her 18 days as ICAD co-chair, will be “recommendatory” in character and will discuss the programs which she would have wanted to undertake if she was not fired by President Duterte.
She said it would be better for the government to focus on helping the victims, especially that it is the Christmas season.
“Parang napaka-mali sa timing na asikasuhin natin iyong report sa ICAD, na mayroon pa namang panahon para pag-usapan ito (The timing would seem so wrong if we tackle the ICAD report when we can do it some other time),” said the Vice President.
Robredo however said she may still deliver the report before Christmas “depending on how things will unfold in Davao.”
“Kung may oras pa before Christmas, baka gawin na namin before Christmas. (If there’s still time for Christmas, we may do it before Christmas),” she said, adding: “Tutal hindi naman siya sobrang urgent. (It’s not that urgent, anyway).”
The Vice President said that her office has deployed a team to deliver relief to victims of the earthquake which she said, citing field reports, left at least eight people dead and six people trapped in a shopping center that collapsed in Padada, Davao del Sur.
Robredo was in contact with Davao del Sur Rep. Mercedes Cagas on Monday morning before her press conference.
“Gusto ko lang kunin iyong pagkakataon ngayong umaga na humingi ng tulong. Panahon ito na magkaisa tayo. Sunod-sunod na iyong aftershocks at iyong mga tao traumatized (I just want to take this chance this morning to ask for help. It’s a time to unite. There were many aftershocks and the people are traumatized,” she said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, shrugged off Robredo’s excuse that she is deferring her report to give way to ongoing operations to help those affected by the magnitude 6.9 earthquake last Sunday that affected parts of Mindanao.
“What’s taking her so long? As the President said, ‘bring it on, whatever you want to come out with.’ Mahirap kasi ‘pag wala ka naman talagang ilalabas at nag-iisip ka pa kung ano ang ilalabas mo, eh talagang matagal (What’s taking her so long? As the President said, ‘bring it on, whatever you want to come out with.’ What is difficult is when you really have nothing to release and you are still thinking what you can release, that will take too long),” Panelo said.
He said that if Robredo really discovered irregularities, she should have already exposed it at the time that she discovered it instead of dragging its expose.
Also on Monday, Panelo advised Robredo to refrain from commenting further on the issue that she has no direct knowledge about like the concessionaire agreement between the government and the private firms Manila Water and Maynilad.
“Siguro ang advice natin kay VP Leni, ‘wag mo nang pasukin iyong hindi mo alam (Our advice for VP Leni probably should be do ot go into things that you do not know),” Panelo said.
He added that President Duterte had already made public the government stand and his “stand appears to be very effective.”
Panelo was reacting to an online post showing an image of Robredo and a quote attributed to her: “Hindi ang mga greedy oligarchs at pulitikong korap ang kalaban. Ang kalaban natin ay tubig. (The greedy oligarchs and politicians are not the enemy. Our enemy is water.)”
Fact Check Philippines said the fake post had been shared 26 times and has generated 4,634 interactions.
In her official Facebook page, Robredo’s office said the online post was “fake.”
“Walang katotohanan ang kumakalat na post sa social media patungkol sa sinabi diumano ni VP Leni na may kinalaman sa mga ‘oligarchs’ at tubig (There is no truth to the circulating post in social media about the supposed statement of VP Leni on oligarchs and water.)
“Vice President Leni Roredo did not say this ridiculous quote about the water crisis and the big businesses. No reputable media organization has reported it and it has been spotted on the disinformation network of the pro-administration trolls,” the Facebook post added.
It went on to say that the Vice President only spoke of the issue on water during a media interview last week in Marawi City, where she said that the decisions of the companies to drop their compensation claims gives the Filipino people an “advantage” despite the international arbitration court ruling.
Also on Saturday, Robredo said in a radio interview that she supported the review of the water concessionaire agreements and urged the national government to deal with the issue “calmly” to avoid collateral damage.