Panelo: Robredo’s ‘missteps’ pushed Duterte to change mind on Cabinet post offer

Robie de Guzman   •   November 19, 2019   •   616

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo’s actions – deemed as missteps – as the country’s co-chairperson of the government’s ant-illegal drug campaign has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to decide against giving her a Cabinet post, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president’s decision follows Robredo’s meetings with officials from the United Nations and the United States and other community-based advocacy groups after she accepted the appointment to co-lead the inter-agency committee on anti-illegal drugs (ICAD).

“The Vice President talking with – and seeking the advice of – certain foreign institutions and personalities that have prejudged the campaign against illegal drugs as a violation of human rights, as well as a crime against humanity, did not sit well with the President,” Panelo said in a statement.

“The VP’s actions are all documented in mainstream and social media,” he added.

“These missteps not only derailed PRRD’s [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] well-meaning intent for the Vice President to be part of the administration, but registered red signs that could not be ignored,” he further stated.

Panelo also said that Robredo’s request to get access to classified information on the government’s war on drugs, including the list of high-value targets, was a “revelation of which could imperil the welfare of the Filipino people and the security of the state.”

He said this added to the chief executive’s reconsideration of his earlier offer to give her a Cabinet post.

“Being a member of the Cabinet gives Ms. Robredo unlimited access to sensitive State matters which, if transmitted by her, whether purposely or otherwise could result to adverse consequences, especially since the VP has the tendency to be generous with acquired information and knowledge to others whose predilection may not be in the best interest of the country,” the Palace official said.

Duterte earlier clarified that Robredo is not a member of his Cabinet despite her designation as ICAD’s co-chair.

“I have not signed an appointment designating her as a cabinet,” the president said.

The president previously said he will appoint Robredo as a Cabinet member if she becomes anti-drug czar.

“I will swear her as a Cabinet member. First, balik siya so that she will have the authority. Eh alam mo ang Cabinet members are alter ego lang ng Presidente ‘yan. So kung may gawain ang Cabinet member, it is as if it is mine. So to make it legal, just a little fiat. Hindi na kailangan na mag-ano pa ako sa Congress. I will just make her the — a Cabinet member. Tapos, all drug cases and all things, matters in connection with drugs iyo na ‘yan hanggang katapusan ng term ko,” Duterte said in a media interview on Oct. 31.

The chief executive earlier threatened to fire Robredo as ICAD’s co-chair if she divulged confidential information on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.

The vice president on Monday assured that no sensitive information will be disclosed.

Robredo urges DepEd to realign budget to fund blended learning, address health concerns

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to realign the items in its budget to finance the distance learning program and respond to the needs of teachers and students as the country shifts to a blending learning system amid the pandemic.

In a letter dated August 10 addressed to DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, Robredo said the department must realign its P29-billion budget for rehabilitation of school buildings to procure gadgets and other equipment for distance learning and hazard pay for teachers.

“Around P29.5 billion was earmarked for the rehabilitation of school buildings for 2020. Given the shift to distance learning, many of these school buildings will be left without children to occupy them, thus deprioritizing the need for the rehabilitation of physical spaces,” she said.

“This amount can be used to procure the needed gadget and equipment for distance learning as well as address the health concerns of educators,” she added.

Robredo also noted that 61% or around 14 million households do not have access to the internet, adding that 74% or some 34,700 schools do not have the infrastructure to engage in online learning.

“While we understand that the department has set up the DepEd Commons learning platform for students to access lessons on their worn, we have received reports that only 7 million students have so far subscribed to this platform,” she said.

“This constitutes only 35% of the estimated 20 million public school students in the country,” she added.

Aside from access to internet connection and self-learning modules, Robredo also called on DepEd to protect the health and safety of educators by conducting mass testing, with testing and distribution of results done before classes start; providing sufficient fund for physical check-up and medicine; providing supplies such as personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers, among others; distributing hazard pay on time, and; establishing a system for the health and wellness needs of the teachers.

She said such initiatives can be funded by realigning DepEd’s P700 million budget allotted for teachers’ trainings.

“Many of these trainings have already, or will be, shifted to online modalities, thus freeing up resources that would otherwise have been used for travel and accommodations,” Robredo said.

“Rest assured that we understand the complexity of the challenges before us. We submit these insights and recommendations in the spirit of solidarity so that we may all, as one nation, build the better normal that our people deserve,” she added.

In response to the vice president’s recommendations, Briones said they cannot just make any significant realignment in their budget without consulting the Department of Budget and Management.

She also said they have allotted P9 billion fund for the reproduction of modules and that these have been forwarded to DepEd regional and division offices.

Briones likewise assured they have laid out programs to ensure the safety and health of educators as she reiterated that no face-to-face classes will be implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been paying hazard pay before COVID-19 for teachers who are in places na malayo ang sasakyan, malayo sa urban area. May standard kasi yan,” she said.

“Ulitin ko walang face-to-face until hangga’t walang vaccine yun ang sinasabi ni president; therefore, the teachers will not be exposed as a result of teaching. If they will be exposed, there might be other causes,” she added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

OVP purchases P14-M worth of COVID-19 test kits developed by UP scientists

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 24, 2020

The office of Vice President (OVP) Leni Robredo has purchased P14 million worth of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test kits developed by the scientists from the University of the Philippines (UP).

In a statement, the OVP said the test kits will be delivered to hospitals certified as laboratories for COVID-19 testing. These include San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, V. Luna Hospital, and Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory.

The testing kits will help in conducting a total of 10,000 tests.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) previously said the UP-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) and Philippine Genome Center aim to increase test kit production as well as increase COVID-19 testing capacity per day.

“With the deployment of the test kits, UP-NIH will increase its capacity to run more tests per day, as each unit of the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit can run 25 tests at once and provide results within two hours,” the DOST said in the statement.

Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center Dr. Raul Destura said there is 8,000 to 10,000 tests produced daily and they aim to increase it by 16,000 tests per day by May 1. AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

PACC’s Belgica says colleague’s call to probe Robredo’s COVID-19 aid “a personal opinion”

Robie de Guzman   •   April 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) commissioner and Spokesperson Greco Belgica on Thursday clarified that the call of one of his colleagues to probe Vice President Leni Robredo’s fund drive and relief operations amid the COVID-19 crisis was just “his personal opinion.”

In a statement, Belgica said Commissioner Manuelito Luna’s statement calling on the National Bureau of Investigation to prove Robredo for allegedly competing with the government’s efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 “was a personal opinion,” and “does not reflect the body’s sentiments.

“PACC is not asking anyone to investigate VP Leni Robredo. On the other hand, we are grateful to everyone who is helping the frontliners and the needy, including the VP,” he said.

“This is not the time for politicking. We are not concerned with any personality.  Our main concern is to make sure all the needy Filipinos get all the help they need the President promised,” he added.

He also said that the government’s immediate concern right now is to end the coronavirus pandemic, save lives, and rebuild the country and the lives of people after the crisis ends.

“Magtulungan po tayo. Maraming salamat po sa lahat ng tumutulong pati ang hindi lumalabas ng bahay. Tayo po ay nakakatulong sa ating pagsunod,” he said.

Robredo’s camp earlier slammed Luna’s statement, calling it “ridiculous” and “inappropriate” amid the COVID-19 threat.

Robredo’s spokesperson, Barry Gutierrez said VP Leni has mobilized groups and organized free transport to help health workers, government institutions, and ordinary Filipinos overcome the challenges they had to face due to the threat of infection.

“Anyone who insists that bringing much-needed assistance to hospitals, health workers, and poor Filipinos is somehow a ‘competition’ has absolutely no understanding of the gravity of the crisis we are all facing,” he said.

He assured that Robredo will continue to do all she can to help those in need in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

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