MANILA – Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Wednesday said he apologized to Vice President Leni Robredo for accusing her of boarding a military aircraft to deliver relief goods in typhoon-hit Catanduanes.
Robredo earlier denied that she never boarded a C-130 plane bound for the Bicol Region while her spokesperson Barry Gutierrez asked Panelo to get his facts straight.
Panelo, however, insisted that he was not peddling fake news, but was simply fed incorrect information.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a separate statement, clarified Robredo did not use any military aircraft to go to Catanduanes.
“I requested the Philippine Air Force to confirm through their flight manifest and they reported that there was no instance that Vice President Robredo boarded any military aircraft in going to Catanduanes,” he said over his Counterpoint program.
However, he said there was an Air Force “Huey” helicopter that brought relief goods from the Vice President from Legazpi City, Albay to Catanduanes on Nov. 3.
Panelo said after learning about his mistake, he immediately sent a text message apologizing to Robredo.
While sorry for accusing her of boarding a military plane, Panelo said he was not apologizing for statements he made about Robredo using government resources to aid in relief efforts.
“Narinig kita kanina sa interview mo na never kang humingi ng tulong sa gobyerno. Papaano mo papasinungalingan yung dokumento galing sa [Philippine Air Force]. May log report e na 90 packages…ang weigh is mga 2000 plus pounds… Mali yung sinasabi mo na hindi mo ginagamit (I heard you in an interview saying that you never sought help from government. How will you explain documents of PAF. There’s a log report that there are 90 packages which weight 2000 plus pounds. What you’re saying that you didn’t use government resources is wrong),” he said.
He said while Robredo was free to use military planes for relief efforts, she should not have made it appear like she was the only official working.
In an interview over CNN Philippines, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also confirmed that Robredo may use government planes and choppers for relief operations.
“I think the issue is—she can if she wants to, but I think you have to be clear about whether or not you just use a vehicle and whether or not in fact, you’re responsible for relief goods being carried by that vehicle,” Roque said.
Panelo also lamented at how Robredo failed to help correct perception that Duterte was sleeping on the job when he was actually working as well.
“Bakit di ka nag react nung marinig mo na binabanatan si Presidente dahil pinalalabas nilang hindi tumutugon sa bagyo? E samantalang alam mo naman. Alam mo VP Leni a may summit, alam mo na si Presidente nagta-trabaho (Why didn’t you react when they were criticizing the President that he wasn’t responding to the typhoon when you knew. You knew there’s a summit, you knew that the President was working),” he said.
He said Robredo acted as if she was “politicizing” the distribution of relief goods.
“Since you are reacting against any false information then necessarily kung objective ka…dapat you should have taken it on yourself na ‘Hindi totoo ‘yan. Si Presidente huwag niyo hanapin ‘yan. Nandiyan nagta-trabaho ‘yan (if you’re objective, you should have taken it on yourself that ‘That’s not true. Don’t look for the President, he’s working),” he said.
‘No calls from Robredo’
In a speech aired Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out on Robredo for “grandstanding” during the height of typhoon Ulysses and acting as if the Armed Forces took action after she made calls to her contacts on the ground.
“You make it appear na gumalaw ang Armed Forces (that the Armed Forces acted). You are not part of the command,” Duterte said.
He noted that government personnel and resources were prepositioned two to three days before the typhoon made landfall.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said there were “no requests or information of distress calls” received from Robredo.
He pointed out that even if Robredo had some “contacts on the ground”, action units on the ground will still have to take their orders from Duterte, Lorenzana, and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay.
“If ever the VP had our operational commanders as her ‘contacts on the ground’ as she mentioned in her tweet, and if those calls were received by our action units on the ground, they will render appropriate actions as circumscribed in the orders of the President, [Secretary of National Defense], and [Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines] to provide the needed assistance—with the information coming from VP,” Arevalo said.
Arevalo said the AFP was on a round-the-clock monitoring and deployed follow-on Search, Rescue, & Retrieval Teams (SRRTs) at the onslaught of the typhoon with instructions to coordinate directly with Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils.
“[Local government units] are in a better position to direct our SRR Teams to go to which locality according to their judgement of need and priority since they have the overall view of the situation. We deem it that way because during those times when we were inundated with requests for assistance, our SRRTs and assets will not be enough to respond to specific or individual requests for rescue,” he added. with reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA – northboundasia.com