Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has yet again taunted his increasingly desperate opposition by restating the fact that the reason he has no plans to leave office early is because he could not entrust Vice President Leni Robredo to run the country properly. Speaking in Cebu, Duterte stated,
“If I stop now, my crusade against drugs, and if there is I said no order in this place, ang corruption will continue, we’re dead. You’re better off choosing a dictator in the likes of Marcos, that’s what I suggested”.
During the same speech Duterte also took aim at the Roman Catholic Church stating that clergy should open a program that allows victims of molestation by Catholic priests to testify about their experiences rather than being hushed up by a political climate in the church that is seen as hostile and suspicious of victims, including Duterte who himself was molested by a US born Roman Catholic priest as a child in Davao.
But while Duterte’s speech covered many issues, the statement that has thus far received the most media attention has been his criticism of the Vice President’s lack of intelligence and political skill. While those unfamiliar with the record of Vice President Leni Robredo might think that Duterte was being somewhat hyperbolic in his criticism, if anything he was being too generous. While former President Ferdinand Marcos was clearly an intelligent and capable individual, the same cannot be said about Leni Robredo.
One of the many peculiarities of the broken political system in The Philippines is that the office of Vice President (VP) is elected separately from the office of President. This allows for the kind of hostile relationship between President and VP that one currently sees where President Rodrigo Duterte is being constantly undermined by VP Leni Robredo of the opposition Liberal Party.
Of course, Robredo’s election was dubious in the first place as many suspect that electoral irregularities were responsible for her contested victory against would-be VP Bongbong Marcos. But while the long term solution to fixing a system that is inherently incomparable with political stability is to implement a federal-parliamentary system, even under the current system, the country could do much better than having an incompetent woman in a high office of state.
While in his first years in office Duterte has signed historic agreements for peace and economic cooperation with China, has secured the delivery of free weapons from Russia, free emergency vehicles from Japan, new investment from South Korea, inspired Vietnam to examine a new approach to its own South China Sea dispute, has developed positive relations with India and has mended the wounds of the Obama era by developing a positive personal relationship with Donald Trump, Robredo’s record leaves much to be desired.
Of the many foreign policy blunders that have exited Robredo’s mouth, she once claimed that China had conducted military activities on Philippine territory when in fact the event she was referring to was China landing aircraft on Woody Island which is not claimed by The Philippines nor is it located near Philippine territory.
If her poor sense of geography wasn’t bad enough, she then stated that Chinese activity in the South China Sea which has not resulted in anyone being so much as mildly injured, is nevertheless the most serious threat to The Philippines since the brutal Japanese invasion and occupation of the 1940s. It is thought that up to one million Filipinos lost their lives during the Japanese occupation, while the devastating era remains the darkest period in the history of The Philippines. To compare the issues of the South China Sea dispute with the Japanese occupation is insulting to the Filipino patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice while liberating their nation.
But when it comes to insulting people, Robredo doesn’t just stick to Filipinos. During a trip to Germany in her capacity as Vice President, she and her Liberal colleagues posed for a smiling selfie from inside a Holocaust Memorial. Needless to say, many people throughout the world found it shockingly inappropriate to grin and pose for photos at a memorial to victims of genocide.
Then in a clear effort to undermine law enforcement in The Philippines while spreading fake news about her own country, she appeared via video-link in front of a UN Commission and spewed false statistics regarding President Duterte’s war on narcotics related criminality. This too can be classed as a foreign policy blunder as multiple nations and elements within the UN have used Duterte’s successful anti-narcotics campaign to attempt and destabilise the political sovereignty of The Philippines.
If all of this was not bad enough, Robredo revealed a basic deficiency in her understanding of mathematics when she stated that 40×4=1,600 during a speech on commodities.
Even bearing in mind the oddity of a Vice President deriving from a different party to a nation’s President (something which one cannot blame on Robredo as this is a systematic problem), Leni Robredo is a disgrace to her office and to the country.
In a nation whose economic development and long term security interests are inherently dependent on good bilateral and multilateral relations with foreign powers, Robredo’s foreign policy ignorance is even more dangerous than her equally large factual deficit when it comes to domestic policies.
It would be one thing to be an opponent of Duterte, after all the Philippine electoral system allows for the VP to be such an opponent of the elected President. But what is unacceptable is for the current VP to undermine not only the President but the national interest by making inflammatory and false statements while engaging in offensive actions around the world.
Decades of poor political leadership requires President Duterte to strive towards important confidence building measures with all current and potential foreign partners. Thus far, Duterte has done an outstanding job of changing the geopolitical fortunes of his potentially prosperous nation. In this mission, Duterte needs allies and constructive opposition (which he has incidentally always welcomed). Instead, the Philippine Vice President brings shame upon her nation by undermining the history changing efforts of President Duterte.
Leni Robredo needs to be replaced in the short term and her office must in the long term be abolished through the creation of a federal-parliamentary system. In any case, President Duterte is absolutely correct in stating that a Robredo Presidency would cause grievous harm to the nation.