DILG exec’s ‘lugaw’ remark a reminder to base hiring on capability not politics – Robredo
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo thinks that the attempt of an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to drag her into a recent controversy — about whether “lugaw,” or rice porridge, is an essential item that can be delivered during curfew hours — could serve as a reminder for the government to hire people based on job qualifications and not politics.
“I don’t want to waste time on that,” she said in Filipino on Sunday during her weekly radio show, “BISErbisyong LENI”, on AM radio station DZXL.
Neither she nor program anchor Ely Saludar identified the DILG official, but they were obviously referring to Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III.
Densing reacted to a viral video showing a barangay official blocking the delivery of lugaw during curfew, saying that it was “not essential.” In his reaction, Densing was quoted as saying that “lugaw” was not essential — an allusion to Robredo, which he admitted.
Robredo had become linked to lugaw ever since her supporters launched a fundraising drive for her 2016 vice presidential campaign by selling lugaw.
Densing’s statement drew a lot of flak from netizens who insisted that government officials should instead focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the face of a surge affecting Metro Manila and four nearby provinces.
In a statement, Robredo’s spokesperson, Barry Gutierrez, said that such officials were a burden to the country.
“If the conversation has gone down to that level, maybe he finds his workload lacking, right? But for me, there’s a lesson there,” Robredo said of Densing’s remarks.
She suggested that the incident might be a good reminder for appointing officials to be careful about whom they would pick.
“I know a lot of people at the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] who are career officers, professionals, who are all capable,” she said. “So it makes me sad to see them get mixed in with this kind of public official… I understand that some appointments are political appointments. But I hope that even in political appointments the capacity [of the appointee] is considered.”
The vice president has maintained close ties with the DILG, because her late husband, former Naga Mayor Jesse Robredo, once served as its secretary. She has also worked with DILG in various settings, including her stint as co-chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs.
Robredo stressed that appointing officers should ensure that only people with the right qualifications for a job would be accepted.
“If it’s only politics, not the capability, that they look at, then these are the kind of public officials that we will have. And because they will be serving the public, the public will be shortchanged,” she said.
“For me, it’s our obligation — because their salaries are paid with the people’s money — that those whom we will appoint will serve properly, those will not be there to have power but to serve the people, whether they are political allies or not,” she said.
Robredo has been vocal about how the government can improve its COVID-19 response, especially with the recent surge in cases. Earlier, she suggested that one way the government could gauge its own performance is by setting targets that could be compared to actual output.
The recent COVID- has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to put under enhanced community quarantine Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — a so-called ECQ bubble.
As of Sunday, the country has recorded a total of 135,526 active cases, most of which were recorded in the ECQ bubble.
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