MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte spewed tirades against Vice President Leni Robredo because she allegedly asked where he was during the onslaught of this year's most destructive typhoon, his spokesman said Wednesday, even as he admitted he was "not sure" where the Chief Executive got his information.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte's supporters "could not be... behind" the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (where is the President) when Ulysses spawned floods in vast swaths of Luzon and trapped people on their rooftops last week.
Asked whether or not Duterte could have been misinformed that Robredo also inquired about his whereabouts, Roque said, “I am not sure and I do not know and my role as a spokesman basically is to clarify matters if what the President said was not clear, but I think what he said last night was very clear.”
“It’s expected that she would deny, of course, given the very strong words of the President against her, but we all know that the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo was trending," Roque told CNN Philippines.
“And as far as the President’s statements are concerned, I think the President would not have been irritated as he was, if he did not have personal knowledge that the Vice President was asking for his whereabouts, either privately or publicly,” he added.
Roque said he was "not saying" that Robredo started the #NasaanAngPangulo mess, "but it was a very loud hashtag."
“And I will repeat that the President must have his basis for alleging that the Vice President was among those asking where the President was at a crucial time when he was making very important interventions at the ASEAN and while we’re being ravaged by Ulysses,” he said.
ROBREDO SAYS DUTERTE SURROUNDED BY 'FAKE NEWS PEDDLERS'
The Vice President had said she never used #NasaanAngPangulo, and that helping Filipinos cope with Ulysses was not a contest.
"Ang mga sunod-sunod na nangyayari nagpapakita na iyong peddlers of fake news nasa paligid mismo ni Presidente. At tingin ko, malaking kasalanan iyon para kay Presidente for him to react that way, nagre-react siya sa isang false information," Robredo said in a chance interview in typhoon-hit Camarines Sur earlier Wednesday.
"Kaya sa akin, iyong pakiusap ko lang: ang dami nang peddlers of fake news sa atin; huwag na nilang dagdagan," she added.
(The recent incidents show that peddlers of fake news surround the President. And I think it is a big mistake for the President to react that way, he is reacting to false information. My only request is: there are already many peddlers of fake news, let's not add to them.)
ROQUE SAYS ROBREDO'S TYPHOON RESPONSE 'OUT OF ORDER'
Robredo from Friday evening to Saturday dawn had tweeted updates and asked for rescue for residents in Cagayan Valley who were screaming for help on their rooftops, as floods raged. Her office also distributed donated relief aid in various areas.
However, Roque claimed that the Vice President's help was "out of order."
“Her Twitter posts are making it appear that she was the one calling the shots at the time of typhoon… It was completely out of order that she misinformed the people, the nation, as if she was in charge of relief efforts. She was not,” he claimed.
“The President said under the constitutional scheme, the Vice President is a spare tire. When Ulysses struck, he was in charge,” he added.
Robredo said claims that she was ordering the military and police were "wrong." She said she only relayed distress calls to rescue teams.
"Tingin ko obligasyon ko iyon at obligasyon ng kung sinong nakakatanggap ng calls for that na maghanap ng saklolo," she said.
"At para lang sa akin, oras ito ng matinding sakuna. Hindi dapat tayo sarado sa pagpapaabot ng tulong sa iba. Para sa akin, ito nga iyong panahon na lahat tayo dapat nagtutulong-tulong."
(I think it was my obligation and it is the obligation of anyone receiving calls for that to find help. And for me, this is a time of great calamity. We should not be close to those extending help for others. For me, this is the time for all of us to help each other.)