MANILA - Several senators on Wednesday lamented how relief efforts for typhoon victims have become "politicized" after President Rodrigo Duterte spoke out on national television against criticism of his handling of disaster response operations.
During a televised address on updates on typhoon response, the President on Tuesday night spent the first 20 minutes blasting Vice President Leni Robredo, charging at Robredo for supposedly scoring his absence amid the calamities. Robredo, who has been active in relief operations, never made such statement.
"Nakakalungkot na kailangan umabot sa ganito ka-politicized ang pagbibigay ng ayuda at the expense of our kababayans who directly need all the help we can give lalo na ngayong sunod-sunod ang sakuna," Sen. Nancy Binay said in a statement.
(It is sad that we have come to a point when relief efforts are being politicized at the expense of our countrymen who direly need all the help we can give especially at this time when we were hit by a series of calamities.)
"Di ba tayo pwedeng tumulong na lang na naka-off ang camera, walang social media, at walang bahid ng propaganda?" she said.
(Can't we just help without cameras, without social media, and without a tinge of propaganda?)
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he would "rather not jump into their fray," but posted a cryptic tweet that read: "Ang daming talkice sa pagtulong. Tulong na lang! MATTHEW 6:3."
The latter part of Sotto's tweet refers to the bible verse: "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."
Both senators did not clarify if they were referring to either Duterte or Robredo, who both, in several instances, were photographed visiting calamity-hit areas in recent days.
Duterte had accused Robredo of trying to get ahead of him in Bicol, one of the regions hit by Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses earlier this month. Robredo is from Bicol and served as Camarines Sur representative before her election to the 2nd highest post of the land.
In his address, the President also asked where Robredo spends nights - remarks Robredo attributed to Duterte being a "misogynist." She then posted a video of the goings on in her office late in the evening, including the repacking of relief goods for typhoon victims.
Minority bloc senators came to opposition leader Robredo's defense, saying the President was just "insecure."
"Ang mahalaga kay VP Leni ay kung paano makatulong sa mga kababayan natin mula Cagayan hanggang Bicol na tinamaan ng bagyo," Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who heads the opposition Liberal Party, said.
(What is important to VP Leni is how to help our countrymen from Cagayan to Bicol who were hit by the typhoon.)
"Tulong sa kapwa, hindi mga gawa-gawang kwento at hindi away, ang dapat tuununan ng pansin ng lahat," he said.
(Helping others, not fabricated stories and bickering should be our focus.)
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima said Duterte should just channel his energy to working, instead of politicking.
"Kung 'yang tapang-tapangan ni G. Duterte ay ginagamit niya sa paglilingkod sa ating bayan at hindi sa pamumulitika, di sana hindi na niya kailangan ma-insecure sa mga kagaya ni VP Leni na masipag, epektibo, at may silbi," detained Sen. Leila de Lima said in a statement.
(If Duterte uses his energy to serve the people instead of politicking, he would not be insecure of the likes of VP Leni who is hardworking, effective and useful.)
"Duterte’s latest meltdown does not deserve any retort or serious attention," she said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros quoted a statement from Robredo, saying there is "no space for our ego when lives are at stake."
"Every life saved matters, as every person's help matters. Magtulungan tayo because we are all in this together," she said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called for "solidarity and unity," notig that the country is still facing the COVID-19 pandemic, and is still reeling from "3 devastating typhoons."
"The 2022 elections should not get in the way of disaster response," said Drilon, a partymate of the Vice President.
"Every hand counts, every action counts and that includes the Vice President. We should be able to get out of this situation as a whole and as a nation," he said.