MANILA, Philippines – It took more than a month after their proclamation, but the much-awaited first meeting between the country’s top two leaders was “very warm” and “definitely broke the ice.”
In a chance interview on Tuesday, July 5, Vice President Leni Robredo said it was a sigh of relief for her to finally have a formal meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte. Robredo paid a visit to Duterte at Malacañang Palace on Monday, July 4. (LOOK: IN PHOTOS: Duterte-Robredo meeting at Malacañang)
Their first formal meeting came just a few days after their first public appearance together at the change of command ceremony of the Armed Forces of the Philippines last Friday, July 1.
“Malaking bagay para sa akin na na-break na ang ice kasi parang iyon lang naman ang sword hanging over my head na hindi pa kami nakakapag-usap,” said Robredo. “Mabait naman siya, napaka-respectful. Tinatawag pa nga niya ako na ‘Ma’am’ kaya nakakahiya.”
(It’s a big thing for me that we broke the ice, because that was the sword hanging over my head – the fact that we had yet to talk. He was nice, very respectful. He was even calling me ‘Ma’am’ so I felt a bit shy.)
Robredo said she clarified to Duterte she was only there for a courtesy visit, and to reiterate her full support for his administration.
“Sa unang pagkakataon pa lang sinabi ko na sa kanya na wala ako doon para mag-apply, nandito lang po ako para personal na ipahayag ang suporta ko. Sinabi ko sa kanya na with or without a Cabinet post he can expect from me the same kind of support,” the Vice President explained.
(The first chance I got, I told him that I was not there at Malacañang to apply for a Cabinet post. I told him I was there to personally express support for his administration. I also told him that with or without a Cabinet post, he can expect from me the same kind of support.)
Earlier, Duterte and Robredo appeared to have been off to a rocky start when the President said early on that he would not give a Cabinet position to the Vice President.
Duterte had cited their political differences, and his friendship with Robredo’s top rival for the vice presidency, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
At Malacañang on Monday, Robredo said that she and Duterte shared their experiences on the campaign trail.
The two are bound by uncanny similarities – they grew up in the provinces, chased their college dreams in Metro Manila, returned home to build their cities into models of governance, and became reluctant candidates for the country’s top two posts.
“Sinabi niya na naninibago siya sa lahat ng protocols. Sabi ko, ako rin. Naninibago siya sa maraming security. Sabi ko, ako rin. Tapos basically ang buhay sa Maynila at buhay sa Davao. Parang nag-exchange notes lang kami,” Robredo said.
(He said he was adjusting to all the protocols. I told him I was adjusting too. He said he wasn’t used to having so many security personnel around him. I told him, me too. And basically, adjusting to life in Manila compared to life in Davao. We just exchanged notes.)
Duterte, according to Robredo, also made a request as she was about to leave after their meeting.
“Noong paalis na ako ang sabi niya sa akin, ‘Basta aalalayan mo ako sa trabaho.’ Ang sabi ko naman sa kanya, ‘Iiwan ko po ang number ko sa staff ninyo. Kung may gusto kayong ipagawa, tawagan na lang ako ng staff ninyo,'” the Vice President said.
(When I was about to leave, he told me, ‘Just help me in my work.’ I replied, ‘I’ll leave my number with your staff. If you want anything done, your staff can call me any time.’)
When will the Philippines’ top two leaders meet again?
“Hindi kami nag-set ng meeting pero ang sabi niya, ‘Mas dalasan mo ang pagpunta dito dahil bahagi ka ng administrasyon.’ Sabi niya nga, ‘Mas mabuti ang nalalaman ko na sitwasyon sa bansa ay alam mo rin,'” Robredo said.
(We haven’t scheduled another meeting yet, but he said, ‘Come here often because you are part of the administration.’ He also said, ‘It’s better that what I know about the situation of our country, you’re also aware of.’) – Rappler.com