EARLIER this week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo met for the second time in public since the latter retired from her Cabinet post in December of last year.
The country’s top officials, who seemingly have a strained relationship over differences in some political policies, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries during the graduating ceremony of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) on Sunday, March 12 in Baguio City.
Duterte and Robredo, however, sat one seat apart from each other, with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in between them.
In December, Robredo resigned as the country’s housing secretary, citing “major differences in principles and values” from Duterte, who barred her from attending future Cabinet meetings.
The two top officials have been clashing over some government policies, with Robredo expressing dissent over Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, push to reimpose capital punishment, and the burial of late dictator and President Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes’ cemetery.
During his speech, Duterte apologized for failing to mention Robredo’s name when he earlier acknowledged the event’s guests.
“I apologize, ma’am, it was not done,” Duterte said, making light of the gaffe by blaming his unnamed speech writer.
In jest, Duterte threatened to beat the person who wrote his speech: “Ang nagsulat ma’am dito hindi ka sinali. Bugbugin na lang natin. (The one who wrote this excluded you, ma’am. Let’s just beat him up).”
“I would like to apologize and acknowledge the presence of this beautiful lady, the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. Sorry, ma’am ha,” he added.
In response, Robredo nodded at Duterte with a smile. They last met earlier in January during a Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting held at Malacañang.
In his speech, Duterte also lauded the achievements of the PMA female graduates.
Of the 167 graduates of the PMA class of 2017, 63 are female, including top notcher Cadet 1st Class Rovi Mariel Martinez.
“Today, we make history. This is the first time female cadets occupied eight of the top 10 spots in their graduating class,” Duterte said. “With the highest number of graduating women in PMA’s history, this breakthrough is a fitting tribute to our mothers, sisters and daughters as we celebrate Women’s Month.”
He also urged the graduating class to remain morally upright and true to their oath.
“To the Salaknib Class of 2017, may you always stay true to your class name and defend the motherland with all your honor and might,” he added. “Be vanguards of hope, be catalysts of change.”