As a Filipino, I have the right to criticize Duterte gov't – Robredo

Vice President Leni Robredo said she and all other Filipinos have the right to call out the lapses of the Duterte government and make suggestions to address them. 

Robredo said this during her interview on GMA-7's Quarantined with Howie Severino on Tuesday night, September 15, when asked to respond to critics questioning if she has any legal basis as Vice President to speak out on policy matters. 

“Palagay ko, kahit hindi ako VP, may karapatan ako. Kahit hindi ako VP, kahit ordinaryong mamamayan lang ako, may karapatan akong ipahayag ‘yung aking mga mungkahi,” the Vice President said. 

(I think that I have the right, even if I’m not VP. Even if I’m not VP, even if I’m just an ordinary citizen, I have the right to air my suggestions.)

The Philippine opposition leader said that it is her duty as a Filipino who who wants to participate in nation-building, to call out the shortcomings of the government if necesary.

“May karapatan akong mag-criticize if I need to criticize kasi ‘yun ‘yung demands ng pagiging Pilipino ko. Ang demand sa akin as a Filipino ay maging bahagi...ako sa nation-building,” Robredo added. 

(I have the right to criticize if I need to criticize because that’s what being a Filipino demands. My being Filipino demands that I become part of nation-building.)

Since the crippling coronavirus pandemic hit the country, Robredo has sent to Malacañang 3 sets of comprehensive proposals to help boost the government's response to the public health crisis. 

Robredo incurred Duterte’s ire in August, when she said Filipinos were already losing “confidence” in the administration because there seems to be no one at the helm of the government's coronavirus response efforts.

The President then accused Robredo of fueling the anger of citizens against his administration.

VP's platform to influence

Government propagandists and online trolls also pounced on Robredo, claiming she had no right to speak out because she is not the President.

Robredo disagreed. “Sa akin, obligasyon, ‘yun and hindi puwedeng sabihin na dahil hindi ako Presidente, hindi ako puwedeng magsalita. As I have said, kahit walang katungkulan, puwedeng magsalita," she said.

(For me, that’s an obligation, and they can’t say that I can't speak out because I’m not the President. As I have said, even those without positions in government can speak out.)

She also noted that unlike others, she has the platform to amplify her suggestions, so she might as well use it.

“Maraming tao ang hindi nabibigyan ng pagkakataon, and sa akin, may ganoon akong platform. Gagamitin ko ang platform na ‘yun na maging boses,” said the Vice President. 

(A lot of people have not been given the opportunity but I was given such a platform. I will use that platform to be a voice.)

Robredo herself spent the past months helping fill the gaps that her office has identified in the government's response to the pandemic. (READ: 'Not time to keep score': Robredo focuses on frontliners, not politics)

These include assisting frontliners by raising millions worth of funds to provide them with personal protective equipment sets, test kits, food packs, dormitories for those who have no place to sleep, and free shuttle services for those in Metro Manila and Cebu.

The Office of the Vice President (OVP) also partnered with the local governments in Quezon City and Pasig to operate the Community Mart, an app where market vendors can sell their products and have their goods delivered to customers by tricycle drivers. She also patronizes locally-made PPE and has urged the government to do the same.

Last week, the OVP launched an online job platform to help Filipinos look for new opportunities amid the pandemic. 

Robredo's office was able to pull these off despite a small budget by partnering with different private institutions and non-governmental organizations. 

Lawmakers have already committed to increase the OVP’s proposed budget in 2021 so Robredo can continue her effective COVID-19 response programs. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives 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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