MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday urged leaders to hear the plight of Filipinos on the ground and to build “deep and authentic” connections as the country continued to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and reel from the aftermath of recent typhoons.
“The more that the people are looped in, the more they recognize that we are all in this together and the more galvanized they become. This is perhaps the entire point of participative democracy: it can only happen if we build the necessary affinity with the people,“ Robredo said during the closing event of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats’ (CALD) 13th assembly.
Speaking directly with Filipinos, spending time with them and “valuing their perspectives” helps affirm their worth and recognizes the humanity that binds everyone together, added the official, who has been hands on in typhoon relief operations.
She cited how a “gap in humility" helped the rise of populist demagogues who weaponize these types of engagement to their favor.
“They make their crass pronouncements and sleep in mosquito nets to signal the sameness with a [frustration]. But while populism dresses itself up in cosmetic affinity, the liberal response is to pursue authentic human engagement, to lean towards the ground and share in the struggle of the people,” Robredo explained.
She said leaders should rebuild “broken” connections with Filipinos due to lies and offline disconnects, and stressed that it is the only liberal response during these trying times.
Politicians should also stop trying to promise future salvation, the Vice President pointed out, and should instead offer real-time solidarity.
“This is the necessary pivot… to engage as many people as deeply as possible, with as much warmth as we can muster, the whole real conversations, to hear real stories, to build real connections, to recognize the worth of every individual, to listen first and listen for real,” she said.
This year's 5-day virtual event organized by CALD started Monday and tackled the future of democracy and its challenges amid the pandemic.
Among personalities who headlined the event were Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen, CALD Chairperson Philippine Sen. Francis Pangilinan, former Thailand prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Hong Kong democracy activist Emily Lau, and former Philippine budget secretary Florencio Abad.
MISINFORMATION ONE OF THE 'BIGGEST PROBLEMS' TODAY
Robredo lamented the spread of misinformation, domestic or foreign, which she said threatens the fabric of democracy.
Before leaders could address the challenges liberalism is facing, the problem of disinformation should be raised, according to the Vice President.
“We have to ask why do people believe the lies? Online technologies and the regime of misinformation... have become among our biggest problems. Is it merely a matter of volume? A matter of communication strategy?" Robredo, the leader of the opposition, said.
"Look deeper and we come face to face with a very real frustration, that they (misinformation) fuel the illiberal phenomenon," she added.
The Vice President and her office have been consistent targets of misinformation since she assumed office in 2016, most recently officials' claims that she used a C-130 military aircraft for her relief efforts in a typhoon-hit province. This turned out to be false.
Earlier, online misinformation had also targeted the Vice President's relief efforts.
Mocha Uson, a deputy executive director of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, shared to her 5.6 million Facebook followers in January a blog post saying Robredo gave relief packs with only 5 pieces of "pandesal" and a bottle of water to survivors of the Taal Volcano eruption, an accusation Robredo denied.
Robredo said her office in previous instances prepared several complaints over fake news, but she backed down at the last minute because it was against her advocacy for the decriminalization of libel and cyber libel.
WATCH: 'Enough is enough': VP Robredo fights back vs 'fake news' peddlers | ANC