Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday told President Rodrigo Duterte to “stop lies distorting the truth in our society,” and lead “towards respect for rule of law, instead of disregard for it.”
Speaking at a forum on the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, Robredo asked Duterte “to uphold the basic human rights enshrined in the institution, instead of encouraging its abuse.”
“Be the leader you promised to be, and stop the lies that are distorting the truth in our society,” she said.
The speech came on the same day that Sen. Leila de Lima, a member of the Liberal Party, was arrested for one of the three cases filed in relation to her alleged involvement in the drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Duterte linked De Lima to illegal drugs as early as during the start of his term.
Robredo, interim chair and highest elected official of the said party, called this move a “loud and clear” message that “anyone who dares speak dissent is not safe.”
She urged the President to turn his attention instead to fighting poverty, which she said is “the real problem” of the country.
“Our country cannot afford to be derailed by political noise… Mr. President, we call you to task. In behalf of the Filipino people, whose daily struggles are escalating, we ask you to focus on the war that really matters: the war on poverty. Our people are hungry, jobless, and poor,” she said.
Despite her vocal opposition against certain policies of the administration, this was the first time that Robredo directly addressed the President in a public speech.
This came after another strongly worded speech she delivered on Thursday, where she scored Duterte’s war against drugs.
Robredo said this campaign “is increasingly a war against the poor,” with injustice becoming “alarmingly commonplace in our national consciousness.”
Here, she called on the public to “demand greater transparency” about the drug war, “a major publicly funded campaign,” and criticized how “inconsistent” the administration has been in presenting its scope.
‘We don't need false prophets’
At Friday's forum, Robredo pointed out how Filipinos "are quick to forget" and forgive too easily—something that she said manifests in the "reemergence of Marcos heirs, who today still try to convince our young that the sins of the past does not matter."
The Vice President, who opposed the burial of the late Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, said members of his family "seek to revise our history using money stolen from the millions of taxpayers' wallets."
She then scored how "some leaders" of late have capitalized on the matter.
"Some leaders would like us to forget the atrocities of Martial Law. Some leaders are too happy to glorify the dictatorship of Marcos, to revise the history so that he is remembered a hero, and not the thief and murdered that he was,l she said.
"Some leaders want to raise the fist of authoritarianism, to sow fear and discord among ourselves, to divide us with lies, violence, and bloodshed. It has begun," she said.
She said the challenge for leaders and the public alike "is to counter the cynicism that has marked public discourse," and everyone is called upon "to reject these lies."
"These days, what is dominant is the rhetoric of fear and doom. The public is made to believe that the Philippines is in complete dysfunction, and that only the most bloody measures can cure our country of its ills. We are made to believe that those who protest and oppose are traitors to the nation and its people," she said.
"The strength of democracy, at its core, is the ability of each one of us to be part of nation-building. Do we keep our faith in our individual goodness, or should we opt to follow larger-than-life, self-proclaimed saviors, who promise to remove our suffering in six months?" she added.
"No, we don't need false prophets of change who claim that they are the people's last hope. The change that we so desire begins with us—in the way we live our lives, in the way we protect the rights and liberties that EDSA restored, in the way we continue the unfinished work of the revolution," she went on. —NB, GMA News