'Sobrang pikon': Robredo says Duterte's latest rants unpresidential

Vice President Leni Robredo said President Rodrigo Duterte acted unpresidential when he insulted her for supposedly making it appear his government was flouting regulatory processes for Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking to veteran journalist Malou Mangahas on GMA-7's The Mangahas Interviews on Wednesday, March 3, Robredo said public servants like her and Duterte are not supposed to be onion-skinned. 

Robredo said leaders should always welcome suggestions aimed to improve their programs, like the Duterte administration's delayed and problem-riddled mass vaccination effort against COVID-19.

"Ang unang dating sa akin, parang hindi pangulo 'yung nagsasalita. Pangalawa, sobrang pikon. Parati naman, Malou, sinasabi na 'pag pikon ka, talo ka, 'di ba?" Robredo said. 

(My first impression was that it seemed like it was not a president who was speaking. Secondly, he was so onion-skinned. We always say that those who are overly sensitive lose the argument, right?)

"Dapat sa trabaho namin, 'di ka napipikon eh. Kasi sa trabaho namin, kailangan 'yung tao, malayang mag-criticize eh. Kailangan 'yung tao malayang magbigay ng suggestions, kasi 'yun 'yung makakabuti sa aming panunungkulan," added the Philippines' opposition leader. 

(In our line of work, we're not supposed to be sensitive. Because our job requires that people can freely criticize us. The people must be able to give us suggestions because that will help improve our governance.)

On Monday, March 1, Duterte once again lashed out at Robredo after she backed calls of some healthcare workers to have the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) review the donated CoronaVac doses made by Chinese firm Sinovac before it was rolled out for the vaccination program.

The President even taunted Robredo by daring her to go vaccine shopping outside the country,  saying he would give her the money should she find the much-needed supplies.

HTAC review would've been 'added layer of protection'

But the Vice President was unfazed. 

Robredo said she has no issues with CoronaVac since experts have approved it. But she said it would have been more prudent if the Duterte government waited for HTAC to review this vaccine since the body had earlier issued positive recommendations for the ones made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca. 

"Ang point ko lang naman, Malou, kahit pa donated 'yan at wala tayong gagastusin, obligasyon natin na bigyan 'yung ating mga kababayan ng added layer of protection," said Robredo. 

(My only point here, Malou, is that even if these vaccines were donated and we didn't spend anything on them, it is still our obligation to the people to give them an added layer of protection.)

The Vice President has long earned the ire of Duterte, who would often resort to insulting her whenever she criticizes his faulty or abusive policies – from his bloody war on drugs to mismanaging his government's pandemic response.

Since the COVID-19 crisis struck the country, Robredo has earned praise for initiating recovery programs that are quick, efficient, and inclusive despite her office's measly budget. 

She has also delivered concise remarks that offer concrete solutions to the pandemic, often contrasted with Duterte's winding speeches. – Rappler.com

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 mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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