MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo's camp on Thursday said an interior department official who called her "lugaw" and "non-essential" was a "burden" to the country's battle with a surge of COVID-19 infections.
Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III earlier Thursday was quoted as saying that he called the Vice President "Lugaw" as a jest. However, he said he was "serious" in calling her "non-essential."
Densing "epitomizes the admin's COVID response," said the Vice President's spokesman Barry Gutierrez.
"With cases rising, hospitals full, & millions struggling, instead of doing real work he makes 'jokes,' plays politics, & bashes someone who's actually doing the job they're supposed to," he said on Twitter.
"Di lang ito 'non-essential.' Ito ay pabigat," he said.
(This is not just non-essential, it is also a burden.)
Densing first called Robredo "lugaw" or rice porridge in an interview on Wednesday. A news outfit was supposed to ask him about a viral video where a woman who appeared to be a barangay official blocked a rider from delivering lugaw, claiming the meal was non-essential.
"Tama iyong sinabi niya, non-essential si lugaw. Pero kung sinabi niya, essential ang lugaw, tama 'yon. Ang lugaw. Pero si lugaw ang binanggit niya. Non-essential talaga 'yon sa paningin namin," he said in a One News interview.
Critics often call Robredo "lugaw", in reference to the rice porridge that her team would at times bring to calamity survivors.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque's office said on Wednesday, "Lugaw, or any food item for that matter, is considered an essential good."
"Delivery of food items must remain unhampered 24/7. Huwag natin harangin sa checkpoints," it added.
(Let us not block them at checkpoints.)
Enhanced community quarantine, the strictest of 4 lockdown levels, bans non-essential movement and mass gatherings. This quarantine level is in effect in Metro Manila and 4 surrounding provinces at least until April 4.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday will decide whether or not to extend the ECQ in the capital region and Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal provinces.