Robredo to Duterte admin: ‘Appreciate’ LGUs that innovate to fight coronavirus

Mara Cepeda
Robredo to Duterte admin: ‘Appreciate’ LGUs that innovate to fight coronavirus
Vice President Leni Robredo says the NBI going after Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto and President Rodrigo Duterte's rants vs lawyer Chel Diokno send the wrong message to the public

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo urged the Duterte administration to give due “appreciation” to local officials who come up with creative solutions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This was Robredo’s message on Sunday, April 5, when asked in an ANC interview to react to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) summoning Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto over alleged violations of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The Vice President argued the NBI probe against Sotto was “unacceptable” given President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to local government units (LGUs) to implement Luzon-wide lockdown imposed by the national government. 

“At iyong local government units, kailangan ina-appreciate natin iyong mga local officials na nag-iinnovate, iyong mga local officials na creative sa solutions na pinapakita, local officials na nakikita natin na inaasikaso iyong kaniyang mga tao,” Robredo said.  

(We need to appreciate local government officials who innovate, the local officials are the ones who come up with creative solutions, local officials who we see are taking care of their people.)

“So iyong move ng NBI, kontra iyon sa dapat na ine-encourage nga natin at a time like this. Na masyadong centralized iyong pagdesisyon ng gobyerno, na hindi binibigyan ng sapat na… hindi lang support pero sapat na elbow room iyong mga local officials para gawin iyong tingin nila nararapat sa kani-kanilang jurisdictions,” she added.

(So the NBI’s move is contrary to the encouragement we should be giving to LGUs at a time like this. The decision-making process of the government is too centralized so we should give local officials enough elbow room to do what they think is best in their respective jurisdictions.)  

Robredo, a former pro-bono human rights lawyer and Camarines Sur 3rd District congresswoman, argued LGUs best understand what’s happening on the ground.  

She said that NBI then should not get in the way of innovations local officials will be coming up with to fight the pandemic. 

“Iyong ginawa ng NBI, parang pagsaway eh. Parang pagsaway na… ‘Huwag niyong masyadong gagalingan.’ Pagsaway na, ‘Kailangan sumunod lang kayo kung ano iyong kumpas ng national government,’” Robredo said.

(I think what the NBI did is a form of restraint. A kind of restraint that says…, ‘Don’t excel too much.’ A kind of restraint that says, ‘You have to just follow whatever the national government tells you to do.'”) 

Duterte, however, already distanced himself from the NBI’s probe against Sotto.

President’s rant vs Diokno ‘not needed right now’

On Sunday, Robredo also said that it was wrong for the President to lash out at human rights lawyer Chel Diokno for supposedly “causing disorder” during this health crisis.

“Tingin ko hindi siya napapanahon na nagbabangayan tayo, kasi dapat nga iyong mensahe parati, isantabi natin iyong politika, magtulung-tulungan tayo. Kung mayroon tayong hindi pinagkakaintindihan, kalimutan muna natin ngayon kasi kinakailangan na lahat tayo nagtutulong-tulong,” Robredo said. 

(I think we don’t need this kind of conflict right now because the message we are supposed to give to our people is to set aside politics and to work together instead. If we have disagreements, let us forget about these for now and focus on cooperating with each other.) 

Diokno, who ran but lost for senator under the opposition slate in 2019, told Duterte he was merely helping out his indigent clients and did not violate any laws. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Chel Diokno on the Rule of Law in a pandemic)  

Mr President, may mga kliyente akong tinutulungan na tinitiis na ang sakit at gutom, ngunit wala akong sinabihang manggulo o lumabag ng batas. Okay lang na pag-initan n’yo ako, pero tutukan n’yo rin ang pangangailangan ng mga tao,” Diokno said in a statement on Friday, April 4.  

(Mr President, I am helping clients who have to endure sickness and hunger, but I did not tell any of them to sow discord or disobey any law. It’s alright if you go after me, but focus on the needs of the people, too.) –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.