The Manila Times - Digong burns Leni

16 August 2018

By Jojo Robles | The Manila Times

Dear Leni: Please stop with the pathetic calls to reconcile with the President. It’s not going to happen and it makes you look like an opportunist who can’t decide if you’re with the administration or against it.

I was waiting for Malacañang to react to Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo’s recent call for her and President Rodrigo Duterte to set aside their differences and unite for the sake of the country. But Duterte’s broadside of a reply this week took me by surprise — you can imagine the effect it must have had on Robredo’s camp, especially those who think the two top officials can still kiss and make up at this late date.

Duterte was in another of his very public moods of frustration about corruption in government when his speech once again meandered to a critique of his constitutional successor, Robredo. And the President’s putdown of Robredo not only closed the door on any rapprochement between the two until the end of both their terms in 2022; Duterte, in my view, locked the door and then threw away the key.

“I am hesitant to suggest a constitutional succession,” in case he steps down, Duterte said. “I have nothing against Robredo; she’s a lawyer, you’ve heard her talk, but I do not think she can improve on anything here.”

I don’t really know if Robredo would attempt a reconciliation with Duterte anymore after this. If she had any pride and self-respect at all, she’d revert to her earlier combative self and not try to sweet-talk the President anymore with her fake calls for unity.

Remember that time last month when Robredo said that she was ready to unite the opposition and become its voice? Here’s what she said then:

“There are groups opposing the same issues [pushed by the Duterte administration]but since they don’t coordinate with one another, the voices are not united,” she said. “That’s the role that I want to take: to make sure that the voices will become one so they will be listened to more. I want to ensure that the message they convey will be more understood.”

But just last weekend, Robredo changed her tune. In a television interview last Saturday, she said this: “I hope the two of us will unite because it is crucial to get the cooperation of the constituency. Given that we won’t agree on everything, but let us at least find our common denominator. On what ground can we agree, then we build on it.”

I hope Robredo gets it through her head that when Duterte “disinvited” her to Cabinet meetings and when she resigned as his housing chief soon after the good ship Reconciliation immediately set sail. And when she used practically every opportunity after that to criticize the Duterte administration, including that ill-advised United Nations-sponsored meeting where she passed on unverified numbers of the people killed in Duterte’s drug war, the ship would never return to the port where she keeps waiting.

Truth is, I liked Robredo a lot more when she was clear about her political identity as the leader of the opposition, compared to this new disguise she’s wearing as an advocate of unity and reconciliation. No one believes her anyway when she pretends to want to be reconciled with Duterte. Better to go down in principled defeat rather than pretend to be an ally but to be really working to bring down the administration from within or to be constantly suspected of doing so.

Then again, Robredo is not known to stand by her principles, assuming she has any. Which is why she will never be more than just a footnote in the history books as a political fluke who had the opportunity to make a difference but who failed beyond her wildest imaginings.

And I while I think at this point that the septuagenarian Duterte could really be serious about leaving his post out of frustration, I am also convinced that he will stay on because his love for his country will not allow him to leave the government in the hands of Robredo. And it is Robredo’s fault if Duterte doesn’t trust her with the reins of power, not only because the president believes her to be incompetent but also because she does not seem to share his passion for reform and real change.

Robredo can only hope that Duterte somehow becomes incapable of performing his job so that she can take over. Assuming, of course, that the people will allow her to lead, even if that is what the law provides in case Duterte can no longer exercise his functions as president.

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I am sure that the senators involved in the investigation of the allegedly anomalous advertising contract between a company owned by broadcaster Ben Tulfo, the government station PTV-4 and the Department of Tourism believed that they were doing an important service to the nation by conducting their probe. The mainstream media seemed to think so, too, because they were out in full force covering wall-to-wall the hearing conducted by the committee of Sen. Richard Gordon.

But I really think the Senate has more important controversies to look into that, with media’s help, would actually be more relevant to the people. I’m talking about the allegations of massive electoral fraud claimed by Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, to name just one.

I wish the Senate was as assiduous in probing the allegations of former Biliran Rep. Glenn Chong against the Commission on Elections and its automation provider Smartmatic. Or even the claims that Sen. Risa Hontiveros dipped into the funds of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. when she ran for office, or that Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th will finally be punished for violating the rules on ethical conduct in the chamber.

As far as Gordon himself is concerned, I hope he follows through with the investigation of the Aquino administration’s purchase and use of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, about which there has been no news lately from the chamber after the initial sound and fury. These are the controversies that people want to get updated about, not the thinly disguised attempts of some senators to get back at broadcasters who have criticized them in the media.