MANILA - Public distrust of big businesses will not solve the country's problems and instead lead to the weakening of institutions, Vice President Leni Robredo said Thursday, amid the administration's scrutiny of some companies' alleged onerous deals with government.
Filipinos, she said, have "deeply embedded resentment and anger, which have accumulated over generations against the status quo, the establishment, and the elite."
But "the solution is not to plunge our country into more distrust — whether of big business or small-time, suspected drug users."
"The solution is not to sow more fear and frustration. The solution is not intimidation and strong-arm tactics, nor to silence dissent," Robredo said at a forum organized Thursday in Makati City by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
The Vice President, who has policy differences with President Rodrigo Duterte, warned of a future "where institutions are weakened, only the mighty will rule, and the ruthless will prevail" if society is "splintered into little groups" that distrust and put each other down.
"To fight it, we must all work together," she said. "The solution is to build bridges, not walls. The solution is to bring back confidence through the rule of law and the sanctity of contracts. The solution is to bring back justice, truth, and hope."
Duterte earlier this month promised to "correct" all government contracts before his term ends in 2022.
His administration is looking into state deals with Metro Manila's 2 water concessionaires.
Authorities also flagged the contracts of Ayala Land Inc. for the development of a commercial complex in Quezon City, Chevron for low rental payments, and a still unnamed company that allegedly failed to deliver on a commitment to build a structure on a leased state property.
Under Duterte's "authoritarian" leadership, mass poverty is slowly easing and an infrastructure push is expected to boost the economy, said Robredo.
But at the same time, self-rated poverty shoot up, the 2019 gross domestic product slipped to an 8-year low, and the country's global corruption index dropped drop by 14 spots, she added.
Due to the government's anti-narcotics drive, jails have become congested while the poor worry about their breadwinners getting killed, she said.
"What our society needs at this point is the truth—plain and simple—about the costs of the methodical demise of our democracy and freedom, and its implications on the daily lives of Filipinos."
Duterte has repeatedly belittled Robredo and called her a "colossal blunder" who "has done nothing."