Duterte labels Robredo a ‘liar’ for questioning typhoon absence

Vice President Leni Robredo visits the province of Catanduanes as her office continues its relief efforts for areas affected by typhoon in the Bicol Region. | Photo from the Office of the Vice President

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, November 17, lambasted Vice President Leni Robredo for supposedly questioning his absence during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses, calling her “dishonest.”

“I would like to just give a caution to the vice president. She made a blunder, a big one, and she practically lied, making her incapable of truth,” he said in a pre-recorded speech.

“Alam mo, yung pakana niya na wala ako sa bagyo, I was here. I was attending a summit, ASEAN Summit ‘yun, so virtual lang, palit palit kami. We were talking electronic. Nandito ako noon. Kasagsagan ng bagyo, dumaan diyan sa labas, nag-uusap kami dito (You know, her scheme that I was missing during the typhoon, I was here. I was attending a summit, the ASEAN Summit, so it’s virtual only, we were switching. We were talking electronic. I was here. While the typhoon was raging, I was attending the summit),” he added.

Last week, the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo trended online after netizens questioned Duterte’s lack of presence while Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco) ravaged the country.

Duterte appeared to claim Robredo started the hashtag, accusing her of pretending not to know he was attending the ASEAN Summit.

“There was no need for you to make a very masamang biro na (a bad joke about) where were you?… ‘Wag ka masyadong porma, porma, hindi mo pa panahon (Don’t show off, it’s not your time). Not the time to be making grandstanding,” he said.

“I would tell the Filipino people right now that you are a dishonest person. You knew there was a summit conference. You knew we were working,” he continued.

Duterte said Robredo merely made phone calls during the typhoon, and accused her of acting like the Armed Forces of the Philippines took action after her call.

He also criticized Robredo’s decision-making skills, saying she cannot become president because she is weak.

“Do not compete with me and do not start a quarrel with me kasi ikaw wala ka talagang nagawa except ‘yang mga tawag-tawag. Tatawag ka kunwari o nasaan na ‘yung mga helicopter, nalipad na ba? (because you didn’t do anything except make calls. You would call and ask, ‘Did the helicopters take off yet?’). Of course, they would say yes. Your question would suggest the answer,” he said.

“Hindi na kailangan akong mag-order at mag-order ka pa on the day (There was no need for me to make orders or for you to make an order on the day), God… 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 really. Mahina ka eh. Wala ka nang ibigay order kasi ang order naibigay na two or three days (You’re weak. You didn’t have to give any order because I gave it two or three days before). You do not give orders on the day of the war,” he added.

Robredo debunks Duterte’s claims

Robredo, for her part, took to Twitter to refute Duterte’s claims against her, uploading a video of the Office of the Vice President staff repacking relief goods for typhoon victims.

“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’ve been losing sleep every night so that every day we can bring help to those in need),” she said.

She also said she never started nor participated in the #NasaanAngPangulo hashtag online. She likewise never questioned Duterte’s whereabouts during the typhoon in her media interviews.

“I just called out Sec. [Salvador] Panelo for peddling fake news. I am also calling out whoever peddled the fake news to the President. I never said, ‘Where is the President?’.

You can review all my tweets,” Robredo said.

Earlier, Panelo accused Robredo of using a government plane when she visited typhoon-hit Catanduanes over the weekend to make it look like the relief goods were provided by her.

Later, he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana apologized to Robredo’s camp after verifying that only relief goods from Robredo’s office were brought to Catanduanes at the time.

Robredo also clarified that she was not ordering the military like Duterte was accusing.

“Iyong sinasabing ino-orderan ko iyong mga military, mali din iyon. Tayo, lahat ng distress calls na natatanggap natin ay pinapasa natin to whoever was on the ground and iyong AFP was part of that. At hindi lang AFP, pati PNP (Philippine National Police), pati officials (It was wrong to claim I was ordering the military. When we receive distress calls, we pass them on to whoever was on the ground and the AFP was part of that. And it’s not just the AFP, but the PNP and other officials as well),” she said.

According to Robredo, she has no intentions of competing with Duterte. She said she was only doing her job when she responded to the calls of typhoon victims in need of assistance.

“Sa panahon ng matinding sakuna, dapat lahat na tulong, welcome. Hindi ito contest. Hindi tayo nag-uunahan. Lahat tayo dapat nagtutulong tulong para sa ating mga kababayan (In a time of worse calamity, everyone who offers help should be welcome.

This is not a contest. We are not racing against each other. Everyone should help each other for our countrymen),” she said.

“There is no space for our ego when lives are at stake,” she added.

Robredo’s legal counsel and spokesperson, Atty. Barry Gutierrez, for his part, pointed out that some officials are using the calamity for politicking.

“VP Leni has been working non-stop for over a week to bring aid and support to our fellow Filipinos who have been hardest hit by the typhoons and the flooding. She has done so without fanfare, and with no concern for politics,” he said in a separate statement.

“It is unfortunate that a number of administration officials, and now even the president himself, are seemingly determined to make this national calamity yet another excuse to engage in another nasty round of politics as usual. The VP will not be dragged down to their level – there is just too much work that still needs to be done, and too many people that can still be helped,” he added.

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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