MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III is drawing flak in social media sites after it was confirmed that he had attended a Christmas party in Malacañang just a day after 20,000 people scrambled to find food, water and shelter in flooded parts of Mindanao.
Actress Valerie Concepcion was the first to confirm the news when she said in her Twitter account that she attended a Christmas party for the Presidential Security Group (PSG) where she performed and rubbed elbows with the President. She even said that the President laughed at her jokes.
She later said she did not see anything wrong with the President partying in Malacañang "since its his obligation and responsibility being the head of Malacañang to be present and show his support for his hardworking employees and their respective families."
"But I believe that it doesn’t mean that the president is not thinking of ways to help our kababayan(s) in Mindanao. It doesn’t mean that the president is disregarding the plight of our fellow Filipinos. Let’s not be too quick to judge."
Concepcion's tweet started a firestorm of online debate if it was right for the President to join a party while thousands of families lost loved ones in the flood brought by tropical storm "Sendong."
User Vandenver Vizcarra asked: "PNoy is enjoying Valerie Concepcion's show while Sendong Victims suffer. Seriously Mr. President?"
Another Twitter, Chai Borja, said: "So habang nagkakagulo sa Mindanao dahil ke Sendong, si NoyNoy nasa show ni Valerie Concepcion??? Wow! Ang galing mong presidente! *sarcasm*"
User IsdangMaharot Ghie said: "Nakatulog kaya si PNoy ng mahimbing after niyang magsaya?"
User ilovehanie hanie vessa eguia said: "What I am tryng to convey here is why pNoy is not taking any actions. As a PUBLIC SERVANT he shud first attnd to the needs of others."
Some Twitter users defended Concepcion and said she did not have to apologize.
User Mary Grace Tseng said: "Ahhhh. Valerie Concepcion`s trending because of PNoy. E, sa totoo naman kasi sinabi niya. No need to apologize, Val. You said the truth."
Others, meanwhile, chose to defend Aquino.
Former Makati congressman Teodoro Locsin Jr. noted: "To be fair, his presence not needed in Mindanao while the catastrophe happening. What (is) needed is govt help, he will get in way."
User Sharwin Tee, meanwhile, said: "Can't understand d hatred 4 Pnoy being at psg party on sat. Who wasnt partying? What's important 2 ask is is he leading relief efforts now."
PNoy to visit CDO, Iligan
The President has been criticized in the past for not making his presence felt in provinces badly hit by typhoons. Malacañang earlier said Aquino is set to visit Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Tuesday.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President "wants to make sure that national agencies and those on the ground have a concerted plan" in response to the crisis.
She defended 2 government agencies chided for the alleged delays in giving out warnings.
She said the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council have already issued warning signals, specifically in Cagayan de Oro, as early as December 14.
CDO Mayor Vicente Emano claimed they were not warned of the strength of Sendong, which began tearing through the towns of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Saturday.
The Philippine Red Cross said the death toll from the massive floods has already climbed to 521.