MANILA, Philippines — An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday provoked the wrath of Senator Robin Padilla for supposedly being rude when responding to his questions.
The subject of Padilla’s fury was DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega.
During the Senate finance subcommittee hearing, the senator stressed the need to inform the public about the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the 2016 arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea.
Despite the existing military agreements, Padilla lamented the United States seemed to provide insufficient support during the 2017 siege of Marawi City.
DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo initially responded to Padilla’s question, reiterating that the US is committed to defending the Philippines as provided for under the MDT.
Manalo said there are just ongoing “clarificatory talks” on how the MDT would be implemented, particularly on how the US would come to the defense of the Philippines.
De Vega later joined the discussion and assured Padilla that the government was ready to defend the country.
“Don’t be worried Sen. Robin Padilla. ‘Yung DFA at saka ‘yung gobyerno handang ipagtanggol ang bansa kung sino man ang lulusob sa atin, maging sino man sila (The DFA and the government is ready to defend the country against whoever will invade us, whoever they are),” he said.
“The DFA will fight diplomatically always. We will always use diplomatic means to defend our country,” De Vega added.
But Padilla appeared dissatisfied with De Vega’s replies to his questions.
He insisted that they should explain and clarify to the people the MDT and VFA as well as the 2016 arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea.
“Ang sinasabi ko dapat kapag gumawa po sila ng publisidad patungkol dyan, dapat ay kasama po ‘yung patungkol sa VFA at an MDT sapagkat ‘yan po ay magkakapatid. Hindi po tayo pwedeng lumabas dyan nang hindi natin pinaguusapan ang tatlong ‘yan. Sapagkat ang arbitral ruling po ay 2016 pa at [iyan] po ay papel lang, hindi naman po ‘yan mai-implement,” Padilla explained.
(What I am saying is if the DFA makes a publication on the West Philippine Sea issue, it should include the VFA and MDT because they are all connected. Because the arbitral ruling issued in 2016 is just a piece of paper, it cannot be implemented.)
“Kaya ang itatanong ko po sana dun kanina sa barumbadong sumagot na undersecretary, siya po sana ang sumagot, [ay] papano niya i-implement sa gitna ng West Philippine Sea ‘yung arbitral ruling.”
(That’s why the question I was supposed to ask that rude undersecretary, I hope he’d be the one to answer, is how will he implement the arbitral ruling in the middle of the West Philippine Sea.)
“At kung sasagot po siya, ako po ay senador ng Pilipinas eh galangin po niya ako. Kayo po ‘yun, Undersecretary De Vega. Hindi po nakakatawa,” the senator added.
(And if ever he would answer, I am a senator of the Philippines, so he must respect me. It’s you, Undersecretary De Vega. It’s not funny.)
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano quickly clarified the seeming “misunderstanding” between the two, saying De Vega has been helping the government on those issues.
“Mannerism niya lang talaga ang mag-smile. Ed, tama ba, you meant no offense?” Cayetano asked De Vega. “Kasi sa video para bang you were smiling…”
(It’s just his mannerism. Ed, is that right? Did you mean no offense? Because in the video, you seem to be smiling.)
‘Kasi I’m also looking at the video, parang ang dating you were smirking at us, Senator Padilla?”
(Because I am also looking at the video, it appears you were smirking at us, Senator Padilla?)
De Vega immediately apologized, saying he was not smirking at anyone.
“Ah paumanhin po. Hindi po ako nag-smirk. Paumanhin, Senator Padilla,” he said.
(Oh, my apologies. I was not smirking. Apologies, Senator Padilla.)