Robredo blasts DILG’s Densing over ‘hindi essential si lugaw’ remark

Vice President Leni Robredo fired back at Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III, questioning his competence as a public servant after he claimed the second highest official in the land is “non-essential” unlike lugaw (rice porridge).

Robredo said in her weekly radio show on Sunday, April 4, that she does not want to dignify Densing’s remarks, but added that there’s a lesson to be learned about government appointees.

“Naiintindihan naman natin na ‘yung ibang mga appointments ay political appointments, ‘di ba? Pero sana naman, kahit political appointments, ‘yung capacity tinitingnan. Kasi kung basta pulitika lang, hindi ‘yung husay ‘yung tinitignan, ganitong klaseng mga public officials ‘yung mayroon tayo,” said Robredo. 

(We understand that some appointments were political appointments, right? But we’re hoping that even with political appointments, their capacity should be considered. Because if you appoint people based only on politics, then this is the kind of public officials we’ll have.)

“Lesson sa ating mga nasa gobyerno, na tayo ‘yung nagha-hire, tayo ‘yung nag-a-appoint: Sana naman pagbasehan natin sa competency, hindi lang sa pulitika, para naman ‘yung naninilbihan sa mga kababayan natin ay maayos. ‘Yun lang naman sa akin,” added the Vice President with a laugh.

(Here’s the lesson for all of us in government, since we’re the ones who hire the appointees: Let’s base the appointment on competency, not politics, so that those serving our countrymen would be good people. That’s all I’m asking.)

It was no less than President Rodrigo Duterte – who had repeatedly insulted Robredo in the past – who promoted Densing to the post of DILG undersecretary in 2018.

Densing had dragged Robredo’s name into the latest brouhaha involving law enforcers, who apprehended a rider who was delivering lugaw in a town in Bulacan, which is currently under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the strictest form of lockdown in the Philippines.

The police and village security insisted that porridge was not essential food.

In the face of mounting backlash, Densing told One News on March 31 that porridge per se is considered an essential good. He then took an apparent swipe at Robredo by saying, “Hindi talaga essential si lugaw (Lugaw is really not essential).”

Trolls have long been calling Robredo “Lugaw Queen” or “Leni Lugaw” ever since pictures of her campaign team selling porridge spread online during the 2016 elections.

As a vice presidential bet, Robredo started the campaign with low funds and low awareness ratings in 2016. Several of her supporters then decided to sell porridge to help raise funds for her. 

Robredo would later emerge as the dark horse of the 2016 vice presidential race, beating 5 other male senators for the post. 

Upon her election, Robredo went on overdrive so the Office of the Vice President (OVP) could still help indigent Filipinos despite their measly annual national budget. 

She launched her flagship Angat Buhay program, which links private companies and non-governmental organizations with communities in need of assistance. This also became the OVP’s vehicle to run quick, effective, and inclusive COVID-19 pandemic response programs.

Robredo has also delivered concise remarks that offer concrete solutions to the pandemic, though this has earned her the ire of Duterte, who has received widespread criticisms for mismanaging the country’s pandemic response. –

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.