VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte wrongly accuses Robredo of lying over typhoon response

Read this fact check in Filipino

President Rodrigo Duterte falsely claimed Vice President Leni Robredo propelled criticisms on social media that questioned his absence during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses (international codename: Vamco).

The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (#WhereIsThePresident) resurfaced as one of the trending topics on Twitter on Nov. 12. At the time, thousands of families were crying for help as the typhoon submerged parts of Luzon and destroyed houses in several areas.

STATEMENT

During his public address on Nov. 17, Duterte said Robredo was “grandstanding” when she coordinated with the military -- even if she was not in the chain of command -- while he was attending the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Summit. Calling her a “liar,” Duterte also made sexual innuendos in his rants against Robredo:

“She made a blunder, a big one, and she practically lied, making her incapable of truth. Alam mo ‘yung pakana niya na wala ako sa bagyo...I was here, dito. I was attending a summit — ASEAN Summit ‘yon. So virtual lang, palit-palit kami; we were talking sa electronic… nandito ako noon. Kasagsagan ng bagyo, dumaan diyan sa labas, nag-uusap kami dito.

(She made a blunder, a big one, and she practically lied, making her incapable of truth. You know her ploy that I was absent during the typhoon... I was here. I was attending a summit — that was an ASEAN Summit . So virtual [session], we were taking turns [in speaking]; we were talking via electronic...I was here. At the height of the typhoon, when it came, we were discussing here.)

...There was no need for you to make a...make a very masamang biro na, “where were you?” Kung sabihin ko tuloy sa iyo, what time did you go home? Ikaw noong gabi, anong oras ka umuwi? Isang bahay ka lang ba? Dalawang bahay ka? Tatanong lang ako. Kay congressman ka. At kaninong bahay ka natagalan?

(There was no need for you to make a very bad joke, “where were you?” If I tell you, what time did you go home? You, on that night, what time did you go home? Did you go home to just one, or two? I’m just asking. You’re with a congressman. And in which home did you stay longer?)

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Nov. 17, 2020 watch 2:13 to 3:01 and 8:39 to 9:33

In the same speech, Duterte threatened to drag down Robredo if ever the latter will start her campaign for a presidential bid in 2022.

FACT

After scanning all posts and videos on Robredo’s social media accounts from Nov. 1 to Nov. 17, VERA Files did not find the vice president making any such remarks or insinuations about Duterte’s supposed absence or lack of public appearances at the time a string of heavy typhoons struck the country, causing massive destruction in many parts of Luzon.

Neither were there official records, transcripts, interviews, nor media reports reflecting this pronouncement and attributed to Robredo.

While Duterte’s address was ongoing, Robredo, in a series of tweets, hit back at those who “peddled” the false information to the president and called out Duterte for being a “misogynist.” The vice president said:

“When a President is a misogynist, the conversation goes down to this level. Eto po ‘yung ginagawa namin gabi gabi, nagpupuyat ilang linggo na para, araw-araw, may madala lang na tulong sa mga nangangailangan. (This is what we do every night, we’ve been sleeping late for weeks to send help and relief every day to those in need.)”

Source: Vice President Leni Robredo Official Twitter, When a President is a misogynist…, Nov. 17, 2020

The following day, Robredo debunked the president’s statements, saying: “Kung sino man ang nagpi-feed sa presidente ng false information, ‘yun ang dapat hanapin (Whoever feeds the president false information, should be held liable).” She also pointed out that it is her duty to respond to distress calls in times of calamity.

In one of Robredo’s weekly radio shows, lawyer Barry Gutierrez, her spokesperson, narrated how she was visiting typhoon-hit areas, providing and coordinating aid with local government officials. When asked if she is being restricted by her security officers from travelling as compared with “others,” Gutierrez responded that it depends on the “principal” (referring to the vice president) whether they will push through or not.

Duterte, in his Nov. 12 speech, said that he wanted to visit the victims of Typhoon Ulysses and swim with them in the flood, but was prevented by his doctor and the Presidential Security Group from doing so.

The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo was traced back to as early as January 2015 when it also trended worldwide during the term of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Duterte’s predecessor.

Aquino drew flak online when he chose to attend the inauguration of a Mitsubishi plant in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, skipping the arrival honors on Jan. 20, 2015 for the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Armed Force (PNP-SAF) slain in the Mamasapano clash in Maguindanao.

The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo has trended at least three times under the administration of Duterte: during the 2018 floods, and twice this year, when the president was conspicuously absent during the briefing of key officials at the height of Typhoon Rolly on Nov. 1 and when Marikina City and nearby towns in Rizal were submerged in two-story high floodwater on Nov. 12.

Duterte skipped the ASEAN Summit closing on Nov. 15 and went to typhoon-battered areas, including Cagayan Valley and Bicol region.

Reacting to Robredo’s counterclaims, Roque, in a press briefing on Nov. 19, said the president’s tirade against her has basis, even flashing a screenshot of tweets by Robredo’s two daughters to insinuate they were looking for Duterte. The tweets -- “Tulog pa rin? Alas otso na. (Still asleep? It’s already 8 o’clock.),” and “Sabado eh. (It’s Saturday). Weekend” -- did not mention any name. Roque added that Robredo should scold her spokesperson for his statements in the radio show.

Not dropping any names, Robredo said her daughters are outspoken as she has “trained them to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.”


Sources

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Nov. 17, 2020

RTVMalacanang YouTube, Meeting on COVID-19 Concerns and Talk to the People on COVID-19, Nov. 17, 2020

Vice President Leni Robredo’s Official Twitter, I just called out Sec Panelo for peddling fake news…, Nov. 17, 2020

Vice President Leni Robredo’s Official Twitter, When a President is a mysoginist, the conversation goes down to this level..., Nov. 17, 2020

Vice President Leni Robredo Official Facebook page, [A] LIVE: Interview with VP Leni in Ragay, CamSur, Nov. 18, 2020

Vice President Leni Robredo Official Facebook page, BISErbisyong LENI - Episode 184, Nov. 15, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Statement of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Typhoon Ulysses, Nov. 12, 2020

Rappler.com, #NasaanAngPangulo tops worldwide Twitter trends, Jan. 29, 2015

ABS-CBN News, #NasaanAngPangulo trends worldwide, Jan. 30, 2015

Manila Standard, Aquino bashed online again, Jan. 31, 2015

Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Benigno S. Aquino III's Speech at the Inauguration of new Manufacturing Plant of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp (MMPC), Jan. 29, 2015

ABS-CBN News, Nation mourns as fallen SAF troops come home, Jan. 29, 2015

GMA News Online, PNoy no-show at arrival honors for 42 slain SAF men at Villamor Air Base, Jan. 29, 2015

Interaksyon.com, As homes, neighborhoods get flooded, Filipinos ask ‘nasaan ang pangulo?’, Aug. 13, 2018

ABS-CBN News, 'Nasaan ang Pangulo?' Duterte monitoring Metro floods, says aide, Aug. 13, 2018

Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on typhoon Rolly, Nov. 1, 2020

ABS-CBN News, #NasaanAngPangulo: Presidents entitled to rest, stay safe during typhoons - Gordon, Nov. 2, 2020

Rappler, #NasaanAngPangulo: Duterte missing from 1st high-level briefing on Rolly, Nov. 1, 2020

Inquirer.net, #NasaanAngPangulo? Palace says gov’t working even if Duterte was in Davao, Nov. 2, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque,Nov. 16, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Aerial photo shows the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses along Camarines Sur. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte conducted aerial inspections of severely affected areas in Cagayan Valley and Bicol Region, Nov. 15, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte interacts with the families affected by Typhoon Ulysses in Barangay Iraga, Solana, Cagayan following an aerial survey of severely affected area, Nov. 15, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Aerial photo shows the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses along Camarines Sur. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte conducted aerial inspections of severely affected areas in Cagayan Valley and Bicol Region, Nov. 15, 2020

PTV YouTube, WATCH: Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Nov. 18, 2020

PTV YouTube, WATCH: Press briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Nov. 19, 2020

CNN Philippines, Robredo on her daughters: They’re outspoken and rightfully so, Nov. 20, 2020

ABS-CBN News, 'They're outspoken and rightfully so': Robredo defends daughters after Roque fumes over tweets, Nov. 20, 2020

GMA News Online, Robredo decries bullying of her daughters, Nov. 20, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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