MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor and presidential candidate Isko Moreno heaped praises on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and urged Filipinos to elect a leader who will show the same dedication to the country even amid a life-threatening crisis.
“Kailangan natin ng tulad ng presidente ng Ukraine, ‘yung handang pumunta sa gitna ng lumilipad na bala, sa harapan. Hindi umaalis sa kanyang kababayan. Hindi nagtatago. Nagpapakita, kinakausap ang mamamayan,” said Moreno on Wednesday, March 2, during a visit to Pilar, Bataan.
(We need someone like the president of Ukraine, someone who is ready to face flying bullets, never leaving his countrymen, not hiding. Someone who shows up, who talks to his constituents.)
He asked Filipinos to reject would-be leaders who are constantly absent. He did not name any particular individual.
“Hindi natin makukuha ‘yung solusyon ‘pag absent tayo, ‘pag umiiwas tayo, ‘pag nagli-lipservice tayo,” he said later in San Fernando City, where he had once again brought up the Ukrainian leader.
(We won’t get the solution if we are always absent, when we hide, when we do mere lip service.)
Asked by Rappler if he was pertaining to himself as a leader who embodies the courage of Zelenskiy, Moreno said he cannot say for sure as he has never been in the same situation as the Ukrainian president. But, he said, Filipinos can give him the chance to find out.
“Sa ibang bagay, napatunayan ko na. Baha? I’ll be with you. Lindol? I’ll be with you. Pandemic? I’ll be with you. Nakasama ko ang tao. Pero giyera? Para fair tayo, wala nang buhatan ng bangko, siyempre hindi ko alam kung anong kaya ko pa gawin. Will I be like the Zelenskiy guy?” said Moreno.
(In other situations, I’ve proven that. Flood? I’ll be with you. Earthquake? I’ll be with you. Pandemic? I’ll be with you. I was with the people. But war? Let’s be fair, let’s not toot our own horn, of course I don’t know what I can still do. Will I be like the Zelenskiy guy?)
“Ako, hindi absent (Me, I’m not absent),” he also said, recalling how he slept in Manila City Hall for three months when the first COVID-19 lockdown was declared in March 2020.
But some have panned Moreno’s remarks on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the CNN presidential debate last February 27, Moreno agreed with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the Philippines should remain neutral about the conflict “for now.”
But in the days prior to the debate and after, Moreno has spoken of the crisis’ adverse effects on the Philippines – including higher oil and wheat prices. He also spoke of the urgency of his proposal to halve oil and electricity tax to cushion the blow on Filipinos.
Asked by Rappler on Wednesday if he condemns the Russian invasion, he merely said he rejects the killing of civilians and would push for a peaceful resolution to disputes. Asked about President Rodrigo Duterte’s admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moreno said, “I cannot comment on something I did not see.”
For the past few days, Moreno has been repeatedly expressing admiration for Zelenskiy and how he has held his ground in the face of “Russian super power.”
Last Monday, February 28, he even pointed out that Zelenskiy was a former actor, like him. Zelenskiy was a comedian who played the role of a Ukrainian president on television. Moreno starred in movies and TV shows before entering politics in 1998, at the age of 23.
Zelenskiy and Moreno are also roughly the same age. The Ukrainian leader is 44 while Moreno is 47. Moreno has responded to criticisms of his youth by pointing to world leaders who have received acclaim for their governance despite their relative youth. His Philippine reference is Ramon Magsaysay, the popular president who took his oath as chief executive at 46 years of age. – Rappler.com