Robredo blasts Duterte for ‘favoring’ China, throwing away sovereignty

Vice President Leni Robredo slammed President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, May 9, for “favoring” China and belittling the Philippines’ historic arbitral victory against Beijing over the West Philippine Sea.

For Robredo, when Duterte said the 2016 legal victory of the Philippines against China was just a scrap of paper, it was as if the Commander-in-Chief was also throwing away the country’s sovereignty.

“Seryoso siya kasi mali. Seryoso siya kasi ‘yung sovereignty na natin ‘yung parang tinatapon sa labas ng bintana…. May pagkiling na talaga, may pagkiling na sa China,” the Vice President said during her weekly radio show, Biserbisyong Leni, on DZXL 558.

(This is a serious statement to make because it’s wrong. It’s serious because it’s already our sovereignty being thrown out of the window here.… He is showing that he is favoring China.)

This was how the Vice President replied when her co-anchor, broadcaster Ely Saludar, asked her to react to Duterte denigrating the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands that junked China's expansive claim over the South China Sea.

The Philippines, then under the presidency of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, was forced to bring China to court following the regional giant’s aggressive militarization of the West Philippine Sea – a part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines but Beijing is falsely claiming as its own. 

Robredo said it was irresponsible of Duterte to belittle the country’s sovereignty, since this is an issue that goes beyond the terms in office of elected officials like them.

“Beyond ‘yun sa amin, kasi kami, lilipas lang kami eh. ‘Yung termino namin ay next year tapos na. Pero 'yung issue na sinabi ay ‘yung bansa natin ‘yun. Long after na wala na kami, mahalaga pa rin 'yun para sa Pilipinas,” Robredo said. 

(This issue is beyond us, because our time in office is fleeting. Our terms will end by next year. But this issue is about our country. Even when we are long gone, this is still a fundamental issue for the Philippines.)

Duterte has long held a pacifist view on China’s unsanctioned incursion in the West Philippine Sea. 

He has downplayed the Philippines' tribunal victory over China numerous times in favor of getting loans and grants from Beijing. Duterte claims that insisting on the Philippines' legal triumph would only spark war with China. 

But critics have said the Philippines can push to forge stronger alliances with other foreign nations to put more pressure on China to leave the West Philippine Sea.

During the President’s latest trash-talking of the Hague ruling, he challenged West Philippine Sea champion and retired Sureme Court justice Antonio Carpio to a debate – only to back out later on upon the advice of his Cabinet and allies.

Robredo said had this debate pushed through, it would have been another platform to correct Duterte’s lies about China and its illegal occupation of the West Philippine Sea. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.