For the millions of Filipinos suffering in the aftermath of Typhoon “Ulysses,” it really doesn’t matter where help comes from, so long as it arrives. We earnestly hope our government officials keep this in mind before they jostle for credit—or try to throw shade on the efforts of others.
In the midst of all the suffering, the last thing we needed to hear Tuesday night was the highest official of the land launch into a 20-minute televised harangue of the second-highest official of the land, based on faulty information.
In a recorded speech, President Rodrigo Duterte wrongly accused Vice President Leni Robredo of questioning his absence at the height of Ulysses and starting the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (Where is the President). A quick check of Robredo’s posts on Twitter and her official statements show this was simply untrue. In fact, the hashtag in question first surfaced during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
Yet, based on this wrong information, the President tore into Robredo and threatened to make her life a nightmare if she ran for president in 2022. He also appeared defensive about his whereabouts during the height of the storm.
“You were assuming I should be giving orders on the day of the storm. That’s why you cannot be president really. The orders were given two or three days [before]. You do not give orders on the day of the war,” the President said.
Duterte claimed Robredo asked about his whereabouts when Typhoon Ulysses hit the country—but she never did.
The President finished his rant by asking Robredo where she goes at night, hinting at rumors that the vice president has a boyfriend.
Robredo seemed to take this in stride, posting a video that showed her repacking relief goods. “When a president is a misogynist, the conversation goes down to this level. This is what we are [doing] every night, staying up late every week so, every day, there is help given to those who need it.”
None of this back-and-forth was particularly helpful.
It would help if those around the President did not test his prickly nature by feeding him misinformation, a common commodity these days. Like his chief presidential legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, who wrongly claimed that Robredo had hitched a ride to Catanduanes to distribute relief goods on a military C-130 aircraft. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, whom Panelo had quoted, later apologized for getting that wrong—but the damage, as we can see, had already been done. Or the Palace spokesman, who claimed—also without basis--that Robredo was trying to create the impression that she, not the President, was in charge.
Officials who spread misinformation do a great disservice to the President.
In the wake of three deadly and destructive typhoons, there is more than enough misery to go around. Providing relief need not be a contest. Officials should be helping each other, for a change.