Robredo camp fires back at Rody

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    VICE President Leni Robredo has already proven her leadership many times by cleaning up after the administration, her spokesman said yesterday, citing her activities to fill the gaps in the government’s COVID-19 response.

    Ibarra Gutierrez made the statement as he pooh-poohed President Duterte’s Monday night tirades against the Vice President.

    In his weekly public address, Duterte said Robredo is not fit to be president after she called him out for allegedly trying to “extort” from the United States government by seeking compensation in exchange for the continuation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Manila and Washington.

    “At the time when the government’s COVID-19 programs were slow, VP Leni acted,” Gutierrez said in Filipino during a radio interview, adding: “It’s lamentable that the Vice President is subjected to slander and insults whenever she says something.”

    The former Akbayan party-list lawmaker reminded the President that despite her office’s meager budget, Robredo had, among others, gone out of her way to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontliners last year by soliciting help from the private sector.

    Robredo’s office was able to raise P60 million, allowing her to distribute almost half a million PPEs.

    “It’s very clear that if we’re talking about preparedness, VP Leni has already proven that.

    Now, if the President is saying that (tirades) because he doesn’t agree with the position of the Vice President, that’s a different issue,” Gutierrez said.

    Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who was likewise a subject of the President’s outburst, shot back that Duterte was wrong when he said that senators have nothing to do with international treaties such as the VFA.

    “I may not be a lawyer like the President. But the last time I read the Constitution, a senator has something to do with international agreements. The President should refresh his memory by reading Article VII, Sec. 21 of the 1987 Constitution. It says: No treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate,” Lacson said.

    Lacson earned the President’s ire after he took to Twitter last Saturday and said that not all Filipinos are extortionists, in reaction to Duterte’s speech at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga last Friday that the US government “will have to pay” the Philippines if it wants to keep the VFA.

    Lacson said Duterte’s statement leaves the bad impression that the Philippines is a nation of extortionists.

    Lacson has deleted the tweet “after giving it a thought that the President’s intention was to get a fair shake of the agreement, only he could have said it in a more diplomatic way.”

    Yesterday, Lacson reminded the President about the Senate’s pending petition for declaratory relief and mandamus before the Supreme Court seeking a ruling on the need for Senate concurrence in ending treaties like the VFA.

    “There is a pending petition in the Supreme Court in this regard and the issue has not been settled. All the more that as senator, I have to do something with the President’s threat to terminate the VFA if the US doesn’t pay up,” Lacson said.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President was merely seeking just compensation from the United States government as part of his administration’s efforts to promote the country’s interest.

    Roque said Duterte did not specify how the US can compensate the Philippines but mentioned that compared to other nations, the country has been receiving little to no help from the US whether in terms of military equipment or in protecting its territories against bigger nations.

    Roque’s statement was in defense to Duterte’s tirades on Monday night, when he reminded critics that “the foreign relations or foreign policy is vested in the president alone.”

    The President told Robredo to take a refresher course in law and Lacson, to consult legal experts first before commenting on issues.

    “Ito naman si Robredo abogado (Robredo is a lawyer), I can forgive Lacson because he is not. They should look at the Constitution. The Constitution of the Philippines provides that the foreign relations or foreign policy is vested in the president alone,” Duterte said. – With Raymond Africa and Jocelyn Montemayor