MANILA, Philippines — One general criticism that administration supporters hurl at Vice President Leni Robredo is her penchant for relentlessly pointing out issues with how the government works, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She has specified a lot of issues with the administration’s COVID-19 response, to the point that Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque labeled her as a pessimist. Other administration supporters believe that she is not entitled to any sort of policy-making, as the 1987 Constitution does not give that role to a sitting vice president unless appointed to a specific post.
But Robredo believes she should have the right to do so, even if she were not elected to office. In an interview with GMA News’ Quarantined with Howie Severino, the Vice President stressed that all Filipinos have the right — and the responsibility — to call out flaws in the government.
“Palagay ko kahit hindi ako VP (vice president), may karapatan ako […] kahit ordinaryong mamamayan lang ako, may karapatan akong ipahayag iyong aking mga mungkahi. May karapatan akong mag-criticize if I need to criticize. Kasi iyon iyong demands ng pagiging Pilipino ko,” Robredo said on Tuesday.
(I think even if I were not a vice president, I have the right. Even if I am an ordinary citizen, I have the right to express my suggestions. I have the right to criticize if I need to criticize. Because these are what being a Filipino demands from me.)
Comments on Robredo’s criticisms did not only emerge during the pandemic, as she was also ridiculed while she was co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs. But the attack on Robredo from administration supporters have gone a notch up recently, with people even commenting on her appearance rather than her suggestions.
According to her, she was working on crafting recommendations when the pandemic reached Philippine shores, but decided against making it public to give the government a chance.
But when the government did not act on it — with Roque even saying that the suggestions were not new — they were forced to publish it for the people to see. And Robredo was aware that publishing it might mean being the target of alleged trolls — in the Philippine context, fake social media accounts meant to attack a personality.
“I only made public my recommendations July, August. I was silently working— Kahit nagbigay na ako ng letter kay (even when I sent a letter to) Secretary Roque, I was quiet about it for some time, kasi I wanted to… parang I wanted to give this administration a chance,” Robredo said.
“Pero iyong sa akin lang, tayo iyong pinakamahabang lockdown, marami na akong nakikitang kakulangan. Parang ito would be a disservice to the people kung hindi ako magboboses ng kakulangan. Iyong sa akin, I know that I will be criticized for it, I know na ito-troll na naman ako, pero I think may bigger responsibility at stake,” she added.
(But we already have the longest lockdown and I can see a lot of shortcomings. It would be a disservice to the people if I would not voice these out. I know that I will be criticized for it, I know that I will be trolled for it, but I think there is a bigger responsibility at stake.)
Several issues have been pointed out by Robredo even before the health crisis reached this magnitude, like raising the possibility of banning inbound flights from China to avoid transmissions.
During the same program, Robredo speculated that the 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day may no longer be enough, and that more testing may be necessary.
Despite these suggestions, Robredo acknowledges that some of her suggestions have been enacted by the government — including proposals that she was initially condemned for.
But the Vice President also noted that she continues to speak, as there are a lot of good suggestions outside the government which are not given much attention or exposure. And she believes she can use her position to air these grievances and proposals.
“Maraming tao ang hindi nabibigyan ng pagkakataon, and sa akin, mayroon akong ganoong platform kasi VP ako. Gagamitin ko iyong platform na iyon para maging boses ng mga taong pareho iyong paniniwala sa akin,” Robredo explained.
(A lot of people are not given the chance to speak, whereas I have this platform because I am the vice president. I would use this platform to speak on behalf of the people who share the same ideas with me.)
“It might not be the same for all, pero may mga taong pareho ng aking paniniwala. So sa akin, obligasyon iyon. And hindi puwedeng sabihin na dahil hindi ako presidente, hindi ako puwedeng magsalita, kasi kahit—as I have said, kahit walang katungkulan, puwedeng magsalita,” she added.
(It might not be the same for all, but there are those who share the same beliefs with me. So for me, that is my obligation. And people cannot tell me that because I am not a president, I cannot speak, because as I have said, even if you are not elected into office, you can speak out.)