Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday, Nov. 15, launched the “Istorya ng Pag-asa” (Stories of Hope) project in Iloilo City, which aims to gather stories that would positively inspire other people.
Citing social media site Facebook as an example, Robredo lamented the supposed divisiveness among Filipinos.
“[I] remember that the first time I joined, it was such a happy place to be in,” the vice president said in her speech. “You are there to share important milestones with your friends. You are there to make new friends. You are there to solidify old friendships.”
“[But then] we woke up one day, Facebook is different already,” she added. “And people were angrier, people were fighting already. Former friends are unfriending each other already. Generally, Filipino people seemed to be very polarized.”
Robredo then encouraged Ilonggos to contribute to the program by sharing more stories of hope and to thwart the “prevailing darkness that seems to be enveloping the country right now.”
‘No big deal’
In the same speech, Robredo indicated that she does not want to make a big deal over being not invited by President Rodrigo Duterte to carry out official functions during this week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits.
Last Sunday, Nov. 12, Robredo was left out of the gala dinner hosted by Duterte for Southeast Asian and other world leaders. She was also not among the Philippine officials who welcomed the world leaders during their arrivals in Manila.
“Parang ayoko naman to make a big deal out of it. Iyong sa atin, nandito tayo para magtrabaho. (I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I’m here to work.)” the vice president said.
“Discretion naman iyon ng Pangulo kung sino ang iimbitahan o hindi. Pero tingin ko hindi naman dapat palakihin pa. (Who to invite and not to invite depend on the President’s discretion. But I think this issue should not be blown out of proportion),” she added.
In a media interview, Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that there is “nothing political” concerning Robredo’s non-inclusion at the welcoming rites and gala dinner.
Saying that only Cabinet members who serve as Duterte’s “alter egos” were designated to join the welcoming of leaders at the airports, Roque noted that Robredo already resigned as the housing secretary in December last year.
“Was it really limited? My understanding is, it’s the alter ego of the president who must meet members apparently the protocol when a president can’t be there, there must be a representative of the president who is his alter ego,” Roque explained
While the Robredo did not serve any official functions during the summit, she was invited to attend the opening ceremony on Monday, Nov. 13.
She also delivered a keynote speech during the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) held at the Solaire Resort and Casino the following Tuesday, Nov. 14, wherein she urged for inclusive growth that would benefit also micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
Addressing government and private sectors from Southeast Asia, Robredo said she believed countries must learn to use the latest innovations in technology to their advantage and further help small-scale entrepreneurs.
“The problem of inclusivity is everyone’s job now, because inequality has turned the world’s poor into angry consumers. Technology has given them a voice, and the internet has taught them to use the power granted by democratic and political institutions,” she said.
“For too long, the world has treated micro, small, and medium-scale enterprises with casual concern, their small economic footprint keeping them in the little boy’s room, unable to participate in global discussions,” she continued. “But if we are to solve inequality, we must ensure that MSMEs benefit from unclogged value chains, fair trade, and peace.”