Palace tells Trillanes: Don't make an issue when there is none
MANILA (UPDATE)-- Former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV challenged Malacañang on Friday to appoint Vice President Leni Robredo as chairperson of an inter-agency task force leading the country's response of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trillanes made the statement after Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told Robredo to "offer solutions" instead of criticizing how the government handled travelers stranded by lockdowns meant to stop the spread of the respiratory disease that shut down the economy.
Trillanes said the Palace should let Robredo lead the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases if it "really wants to flatten the curve."
“Kung si Vice President Leni ang mamumuno at magpapatakbo ng IATF, mas marami itong magagawa at siguradong mas maganda ang kampanya natin laban sa COVID-19,” he said.
(If Vice President Leni is leading and running the IATF, it can do more and our campaign against COVID-19 will be better.)
Roque on Friday said Trillanes was sowing intrigue and division, saying his remarks in relation to Robredo were a non-issue.
"Let us not make an issue when there is none. My remarks that Vice President Robredo could have offered solutions is simply a response to a specific question by media," Roque said in a statement.
"We call on Mr. Trillanes not to twist my statement for the sake of political relevance and just do his share to alleviate the plight of our people amid this pandemic," he added.
The Palace spokesman also reiterated his offer for Robredo to propose solutions, saying he would be willing to submit these to the IATF.
As to Trillanes' call to make Robredo head of the IATF, Roque said the vice president doesn't need to be part of the task force to be able to help.
"She (Robredo) is helping in her own ways and if her intentions are genuine, there is no need for her to be appointed or designated in the IATF as suggested by the former Senator," Roque said.
Robredo's office earlier raised almost P60 million for pandemic response, including dormitories, safety gear and free shuttle rides for health workers; extraction and test kits for the coronavirus; and food and care packs for frontliners.
“Bulag ba o nagbubulag-bulagan itong si Roque sa mga nagawa at kasalukuyang ginagawang pagtulong ng Bise Presidente sa ating mga kababayan sa harap ng pandemyang ito,” Trillanes said.
“Kung ang amo ni Roque na si Duterte ay patulog-tulog, si Vice President Leni ay halos wala nang pahinga sa paghahanap ng mga paraan kung paano makatutulong sa mga Pilipino," he added.
(Is Roque blind or playing blind to what the Vice President did and is doing for our compatriots in the face of this pandemic? If Roque's boss Duterte is sleeping, Vice President Leni has had almost no rest to find ways to help Filipinos.)
The former lawmaker said Duterte was "focused on silencing his critics" and "opted to use checkpoints instead of mass testing and contact tracing."
"His failure to properly address the problem has devastated the economy and led to more COVID-19 cases," Trillanes said.
A global shortage of test kits earlier stumped efforts to trace patients with the novel coronavirus, said the health department, which is facing an Office of the Ombudsman investigation for alleged lapses during the crisis.
Some critics also recently questioned Duterte's push for an anti-terror bill that they said could be used to stifle dissent.