She may have crossed the line when she called for the resignation of President Rodrigo Duterte. But junk-bond heiress Loida Nicolas Lewis can’t say that she’s not been told that she’s probably gone too far this time.
According to government chief peace negotiator Jesus Dureza, he told Lewis, a longtime financial supporter of the Liberal Party and Vice President Leni Robredo, just that when they met at the Philippine Consulate along New York City’s swank Fifth Avenue. But Lewis, Dureza was sad to report, did not take back her demand for Duterte to resign.
“I told her when we met that if you love your country, and I know she does, she should not cross the line [by calling for Duterte’s resignation],” Dureza related to me in an interview. “But she would not take it back.”
Dureza said he met with Lewis last week entirely on his own initiative. The chief peace negotiator said he had known Lewis for some time, when they were both supporting then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Dureza said that he had gone on an official trip to Washington, DC, to talk to representatives of the World Bank to ask for their support for certain Duterte administration programs. He then proceeded to New York to meet with officials of the United Nations Development Programme, on a similar mission.
“When I visited the New York Consulate, I asked our ConGen [Maria Theresa Dizon-de Vega] if she had Ms. Lewis’ number,” Dureza said. “She said yes, and so I called her on the phone at her home.”
Dureza said that Lewis told her that they could meet personally at the consulate, since she had some business there. Dureza agreed to have coffee with the rich Fil-Am in the building.
The meeting at the consulate was duly reported by Dureza in a photograph that he posted in his Facebook account. Up until I interviewed him, Dureza has not provided any more details about the meeting.
Dureza described the meeting as cordial. He relayed his personal message, asking Lewis to support Duterte, whom Lewis had personally met in Davao City when she visited the president there right after the May 9 elections.
But Lewis, Duterte said, was also adamant. She insisted that Duterte was hell-bent on installing former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to the presidency; Lewis cited reports quoting Digong as saying that he would allow Marcos to complete his term if he was unable to complete it.
Dureza told Lewis that he had never heard Duterte make such statements and that if he did, he was sure that the President did not mean that he would see to it that Marcos would take over Malacañang. They agreed to disagree.
That’s when Dureza told Lewis that she should not cross the line because he knew that she loved our country and not just one party or candidate. As is de rigeur these days, they had their photo taken and that was that.
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What’s interesting to me is that the position taken by Lewis (except for the call for Duterte’s resignation) is practically the same as the stand of Robredo herself since she resigned recently from the Cabinet. Like Lewis, Robredo sees a plot by Marcos to “steal” the vice presidency from her with the help of Duterte.
This would be a plausible scenario, if it were really up to Duterte to oust Robredo and to replace her with the son of the late dictator. But there is simply no basis for it, simply because the removal of Robredo depends solely upon the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which is going to hear—as soon as it gets around to actually doing so—Marcos’ election protest.
I don’t really know how the high court can steal Robredo’s post for Marcos, something that only the fevered imagination of the Yellows (Lewis and Robredo included) can dream up. All I know is, the Yellows have suddenly ratcheted up the paranoia since the tribunal found that there was no law that prevented Duterte from making good on his promise to bury the elder Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.
I think it was Lewis who convinced Robredo that such a plot exists. After all, when former vice president Noli de Castro asked Robredo how Marcos intended to perpetrate this supposed thievery on his television newscast, she could not find the words to explain her strange position.
On the other hand, Lewis has been accused of illegally funding Robredo’s 2013 congressional run and also financially backed Leni and her running mate, Mar Roxas, in the last elections. Surely, Lewis’ standing as a longtime funder of Leni and the LP gives her the right to tell Robredo what to say—especially since Robredo has not really been known for her perspicacity.
(Robredo has already admitted that she lacks the “political skill” to oust Duterte, which is why she should not be suspected of plotting against him. That is one more reason why, to my mind, she needs Lewis.)
Of course, where Lewis is getting her information about what’s going on in the Philippines is easy to find out. Like the US-based media, which has not reported on anything good that Duterte has done—and which, like Lewis and Robredo, cannot seem to find anything wrong that Duterte’s predecessor, Noynoy Aquino, did—the widow of the richest black American, Reginald Lewis, sounds like she’s been mainlining the LP propaganda.
Which is sad, when you think of all the good that Lewis can do with her millions in her old country, if she really wanted to help. Apparently, you can take the Yellowist out of the country—and give her hundreds of millions of dollars as her inheritance, besides—but you can’t take the Yellow out of her.