When Digong meets Leni
SILANG, CAVITE — President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo appeared in public together on Friday, a day after the leader told his allies to stop trying to impeach the leader of the political opposition.
Mr. Duterte and Robredo were guests at the commencement exercises of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) here.
It was only the second time that they appeared together in a public event since Robredo resigned from the Cabinet last year.
The first time was during the graduation of the Philippine Military Academy’s Class of 2017 in Baguio City two weeks ago.
Threats against VP
Their second meeting took place amid threats from Mr. Duterte’s allies to impeach Robredo for criticizing his brutal war on drugs, which they insist is part of a plot to destabilize the administration.
Mr. Duterte and Robredo shook hands and chatted as the President arrived on the stage.
They also sat beside each other, upsetting an earlier arrangement.
Based on the names posted on the backs of the seats for the VIPs, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno was supposed to sit between the President and the Vice President.
But when Mr. Duterte arrived, Sueno offered Robredo his seat.
Robredo appeared hesitant to take Sueno’s seat, but Mr. Duterte indicated the seat and took the papers off it, apparently asking the Vice President to sit beside him.
The public meetings of the President and the Vice President have been closely watched, especially because of the animosity between their allies and supporters.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Mr. Duterte’s right-hand man in the House of Representatives, insists on examining an impeachment complaint brought against Robredo by a Marcos loyalist, saying it is the job of the House to process the filing.
Alvarez claims that Robredo betrayed the public trust by sending a video message to a UN gathering last week criticizing Mr. Duterte’s crackdown on narcotics, which has taken the lives of more than 8,000 mostly poor people.
On Thursday, Mr. Duterte, speaking to journalists on his arrival from official visits to Burma (Myanmar) and Thailand, told his allies and supporters to stop trying to unseat the Vice President.
“Look, you know, we just had an election. Guys, lay off. Let’s stop it,” he said.
In his speech to the PNPA graduates on Friday, Mr. Duterte urged the new police officers to do the right thing and follow the rules.
Mr. Duterte also assured the PNPA graduates that he would protect them and take care of their loved ones through a trust fund worth “billions” that he planned to set up.
“Fight for the country, do it right. You have been lectured on the rules on how to do it. Do it right.” Mr. Duterte said.
“And if you face trouble in your performance of duty or duty-connected, I will answer for that and I will provide the legal [help],” he added.
He also said the war on drugs and crime had claimed the lives of law enforcers, but he vowed not to allow them to become mere statistics.
“We owe it to them, to ourselves, to our children to ensure that their sacrifice will not be in vain. That they died so [we may] have peace and order and stability for our country today,” he said.
According to Mr. Duterte, his concern is that when police officers get suspended, or worse, their families suffer.
He said that when the New People’s Army once took him hostage and he felt the cold steel of the gun, the first thing that came to his mind was the baby who was then in the belly of his wife.
He vowed to take care of the police officers’ families, adding that he was looking for billions for the trust fund.
He also noted that he had increased the combat pay and incentives of policemen, and issued directives to provide assistance to the families of fallen officers.
The wives of slain police officers would also be given jobs in the government, he said.