MANILA – Malacañang on Friday defended the administration’s delegation that joined President Rodrigo Duterte’s trip to Russia following former President Fidel Ramos’ criticism that the official visit became a “junket.”
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Ramos, being a “managerial” type of leader, may have “misconstrued” Duterte’s leadership style, which he said was “also very relational.”
“It was important to have key members of the President's administration to accompany him,” Abella said.
“[Duterte’s] leadership style is considered, deliberate, even ‘fearless’, in the words of [Chinese] President Xi Jinping; it is also very relational, which can be misconstrued by managerial types like FVR.”
Abella added that the Russia visit, cut short as the President had to attend to the ongoing siege in Marawi City, was an important element of the President’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy.
Duterte had said the visit aimed to address the Philippines’ overdependence on its traditional allies.
Speaking to reporters without naming names, Ramos said some government officials who had no role in the trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg joined the presidential delegation instead of manning their local posts.
"It now turns out that it was a junket... Some people should have stayed behind," Ramos said in a press conference.
According to the Philippine News Agency, at least 16 Cabinet officials joined the President’s official visit to Russia.
Among these officials were members of the president's economic team: Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.
Other Cabinet members who flew to Russia were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato De La Peña, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Aside from Cabinet secretaries, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, some members of the Senate and the House, as well as assistant secretaries and staff members also joined the presidential delegation to Russia.
Duterte eventually had to cut short his trip to Russia after bloody clashes between government forces and the Maute terrorist group erupted in Marawi City on Tuesday.