MANILA – The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday dismissed allegations they were behind the hashtags critical of President Rodrigo Duterte in the wake of successive typhoons that hit the country.
Speaking to ANC’s “Matters of Fact,” Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez said they don’t have the time and energy to engage in such social media campaign given the “more important concerns” they need to address.
“Instead of talking about what needs to be done in order to rebuild the lives of all those affected by the typhoon, all those affected by flooding, here we are spending so much time talking about hashtags, talking about who said what, talking about all these things, and to be very clear, we are not interested in this,” he said.
Gutierrez said hashtags such as #NasaanAngPangulo were organic amid public clamor for Duterte’s presence in typhoon-ravaged areas.
Gutierrez also said the hashtag against Duterte was nothing compared to the campaigns of his supporters against the vice president.
"Come on, the President complaining about the hashtag when for 4 years the Vice President has been continuously blasted by a never-ending barrage of fake news, of online abuse. Her daughters been subjected to rape threats. The baseless insinuations, completely false of course, about her personal life have been made. And you know, she just shuts it off. It’s something that comes with the territory.”
He also denounced Duterte’s camp for subjecting Robredo to a witch hunt, in a time where relief efforts should be the main focus of the government.
“Why be insecure if you have 91 percent approval rating,” Gutierrez said, referring to a September 2020 Pulse Asia survey where majority of Filipinos approved Duterte’s performance despite the government's heavily-criticized COVID-19 pandemic response.
He added, “If they really believed that they did everything right, in other words there's really no call for the public to criticize them, if he really believed he had a valid reason for not going and despite the fact that he was in the ASEAN, they did all they could to give correct, timely information to the people affected by the typhoons and the flooding, and to bring help in a timely manner to all these places where the flooding occurred, then I don't see what the big deal is.”
Gutierrez slammed chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo “for creating this entire storyline,” which he said was based on a lie.
“Let's call spade a spade. It was false. It was a lie. It was completely untrue but he makes no apology for trying to link the vice president in this entire brouhaha,” he said.
“Despite the fact that they have been caught red-handed in a lie, they refused to actually acknowledge and take responsibility for it.
“If there is anybody who has to explain further here, it has to be Secretary Panelo and the other people feeding [wrong information] to the President.”
Panelo has apologized to the vice president for claiming that she was free-riding on the government's relief effort for victims of Typhoon Ulysses. But Gutierrez rejected Panelo’s apology as “sorry not sorry.”
Despite Duterte’s tirade against Robredo, Gutierrez said the Vice President was focused on doing the essential work and maintained she was not competing with anyone.
“The Vice President is clearly more interested in doing the work that needs to be done. If somebody else wants to take credit for what she has done, fine. If somebody wants to say, ‘We did more,’ fine. It’s not an issue,” he said.
“This is not a competition. It is not a contest. There are enough people who need help and anybody who can contribute to that effort is welcome to do so.”