Roque to Leni: Duterte not ‘sobrang pikon,’ you’re just wrong

Contrary to Vice President Leni Robredo’s claims, President Rodrigo Duterte is not a “peevish” person despite his repeated attacks against his critics, the Palace said Thursday.

In a televised briefing, presidential spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque justified Duterte’s recent insults against Robredo, saying it was merely a response to a person who is “always wrong.”

“‘Yan po ang reaksyon ng pangulo sa tao na laging mali,” Roque said.

He was reacting to Robredo’s observations that the 75-year-old chief executive is easily irritated over criticism of the administration’s pandemic response.

On Monday night, Duterte pelted insults at Robredo after she called for a review of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine by the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) and for supposedly making it appear that his government was flouting regulatory processes for vaccines.

He dared Robredo to “pick up her basket” and shop Covid-19 vaccines as he explained that HTAC is only a recommendatory body.

The vice president, for her part, said that President Duterte sounded unpresidential when he went on a tirade against her, noting that Filipinos should be allowed to raise their suggestions in the government’s pandemic response.

“My first reaction is he didn’t speak like a president. Second, he is too sensitive,” Robredo said in “The Mangahas Interviews.”

Roque, meanwhile, insisted that advisory board HTAC can only recommend in terms of vaccine review.

“The President has read the provisions of the law that HTAC is only recommendatory… If she won’t believe that, to whom will she believe?” Roque said.

The council, composed of health experts, evaluates Covid-19 vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration and formulates recommendations to the Department of Health as to which vaccines should be procured.

In separate instances, Duterte assailed Robredo, a member of the opposition, and even belittled her capability to lead the Philippines.

He once said Robredo should “study more” if by any “unfortunate chance” she becomes the country’s next president.

Last year, Duterte also warned that he has a mouthful to say against Robredo should she decide to gun for the presidency in 2022. At that time, Duterte wrongly accused the opposition leader of propelling criticisms on social media that questioned his absence during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco).

Their ties had gone sour in 2016 after the vice president became critical of the administration’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

In 2019, Duterte asked her to serve as co-chair of an Inter-Agency Committee Against Illegal Drugs, only to fire her after 18 days, insisting there can be no trust between them.

Robredo used to be part of the Cabinet as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council until her resignation in December 2016. She cited “major differences” with Duterte, and revealed that she was directed to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings.

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