Robredo on Duterte's rants: What we say taken as policy, be careful

FOREIGN ASSISTANCE. Vice President Leni Robredo (2nd from left) highlights the importance of good foreign relations from the perspective of the anti-poverty sector in a news conference on October 5, 2016. Photo by Patty Pasion/Rappler

FOREIGN ASSISTANCE. Vice President Leni Robredo (2nd from left) highlights the importance of good foreign relations from the perspective of the anti-poverty sector in a news conference on October 5, 2016.

Photo by Patty Pasion/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – If Vice President Leni Robredo would be sought for advice on President Rodrigo Duterte's rants against foreign leaders, governments, and international bodies, she would urge him to think things through before speaking

After all, she said at a news briefing where she was asked the question, they are all public officials whose statements – even personal opinions – are taken as state policy once made public.

"Kung saka-sakaling dumating iyong oras na iyon [na hingan ako ng advice], ganoon din sasabihin ko – na sana hindi ganoon ang pananalita. Kasi parati na sigurong ipapaalala sa kanya, at saka sa amin – sa mga public officials na ang sinasabi kasi namin, lalo na sa Presidente. Lahat ng sinasabi namin hindi na iyon personal sa amin. Lahat ng sinasabi namin is policy," she said on Wednesday, October 5.

(If that time ever comes that I would be asked for advice, I would say the same thing – that I wish the choice of words should be different. Because he's probably always reminded, as well as all of us who are public officials, that whatever we say is no longer personal to us. Everything we say is policy.)

"We have personal feelings but we should not state them in public," Robredo added in Filipino. (READ: Duterte: My mouth can't bring down PH)

Robredo was asked what advice she would give the Chief Executive, whose Cabinet she serves as public housing chief, on the heels of Duterte's latest tirades against US President Barack Obama, the US government, and the European Union. (READ: Duterte to Obama: Go to hell)

Those at the receiving end of his attacks have called out the Chief Executive on the spate of killings following his all-out war on drugs which he had predicted to be bloody even during the campaign.

"As far as diplomacy is concerned, baka makakatulong na mas deliberate…mas pinag-iisipan bago nagsasalita (it might be helpful if one is more deliberate...think carefully before speaking)," Robredo said.

Good foreign relations

Responding to questions, Robredo stressed the importance of the country's good foreign relations and standing in the international community, especially as the Philippines benefits from anti-poverty programs funded by international groups.

She said the hard-earned trust of the international community is something that should be nurtured.

"It is not something that we can do away with, just like that. We worked hard for the level of trust given to us by the international community," she said in Filipino.

"Puwede naman natin pagsumikapan na mabuhay ng sarili pero 'di naman natin parameters 'yun as a nation. As a nation, kinikilala [natin] na miyembro tayo ng international community," the Vice President added.

(We can strive to live on our own  but it is not our parameters as a nation. As a nation, we recognize that we are a member of the international community.)

On Duterte's preference for alliances with China and Russia over the Philippines' oldest and strongest ally, the US, Robredo said, "It also doesn't mean that we have to remove some friends to pave the way for others." (READ: Del Rosario: Count economic cost of shift in foreign policy)

"Tingin ko naman, parating may room for more friends. Kaya sana...ang direksyon, mas mag-reach out to as many countries as possible. Kasi tingin ko hindi naman mutually exclusive ang friendship with the US at saka friendship with China," the Vice President added.

(In my view, there is always room for more friends. So hopefully...the direction would be to reach out to as many countries as possible. Because the way I see it, the friendship with the US and the friendship with China are not mutually exclusive.)

Benefits from international links

Robredo has transformed the Office of the Vice President (OVP) as a center that will link aid groups to local government units in need of assistance.

This has led to the OVP's partnership with different non-governmental organizations, the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations, and the EU to link them to anti-poverty programs in rural areas.

Her office will hold an anti-poverty summit on Monday, October 10, where these partner groups will meet with the LGUs to forge project deals. The OVP will supervise these partnerships.

The United Nations, which the President had also attacked on several occasions, and the EU are among the participants in the summit.

Robredo said despite Duterte's tirades against these bodies, they have not withdrawn support for her anti-poverty programs.

"Kahit maraming nangyayari, 'di pa rin naman kami nakakaramdam ng pag-withhold ng support." (Even though there are a lot of things happening, we still don't feel any withholding of support.)

She said, however, that there remains some concern about the future of such aid from these international groups and governments if relations with them are strained. – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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