MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday disputed Vice President Leni Robredo's observation that President Rodrigo Duterte seems "pikon", or touchy and easy to anger, claiming instead that the frequent target of the president's tirades is "always wrong".
Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, made the remark at a press briefing on the progress of the national vaccination program, which has been marred by criticisms over its delays and broken promises.
Robredo made the remarks on GMA-7's The Mangahas Interviews with veteran journalist Malou Mangahas, which was aired Wednesday night. Reacting to Duterte's tirade against her earlier this week for making comments about a perceived rush to use China-donated Sinovac vaccines, Robredo said the remarks "did not seem like they came from a president."
In part of a televised meeting with top officials, Duterte challenged Robredo to go to market and try to find vaccines as he justified the use of Sinovac's CoronaVac, the only vaccine that the Philippines has in stock. He also said the vice president should die.
"What are you doing? Every time you open your mouth, it seems to be idiotic," the president also said.
Robredo, speaking to Mangahas on Wednesday night, said of the president that "he was so onion-skinned."
"We always say that those who are overly sensitive lose the argument, right?"
The latest word war between the two started when the vice president threw her support behind medical groups who expressed doubt over the use of Sinovac vaccines from China.
Asked about the vice president's remark, Roque said at the televised briefing: "That is how the president reacts to someone who is always wrong."
'Duterte's rants unpresidential'
It is not uncommon for the chief executive or his spokesperson to comment against the vice president, who is a member of the minority Liberal Party.
Before the pandemic, the president made it clear that he did not trust Robredo owing to her status as the leader of the political opposition.
Robredo is not a member of the Duterte Cabinet and is not included in meetings of the government's task force handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is also not the first time that Duterte outright rejected Robredo’s suggestions on how to keep the country's economy afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the coronavirus pandemic, Duterte's live-streamed addresses — meant to provide updates on the administration's pandemic response — have included lengthy asides where the chief executive takes the time to lash out against critics of his administration, most prominently Robredo.
To date, the country's coronavirus caseload stands at 584,667.
The Philippines, among the hardest-hit countries by the pathogen, is still under the world's longest quarantine.
"What is bothersome is how they respond…it seems like they are content with their efforts right now, and that worries me. They get angry when you say that their response is lacking. They respond by saying you're trying to ruin the government. That's a scary approach because it would be better for you to acknowledge that there is a problem," Robredo said in Filipino in August.
— Franco Luna
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