Disunity in the country worsened over the past months when Filipinos were supposed to move in one direction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Thursday night.
In her birthday message to Senator Leila De Lima and in an apparent jab at President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, Robredo said nation-building could not be achieved through threats and violence.
“Hindi nadadaan ang nation building sa sindak, dahas at pananakot, kundi sa pakikinig, pag-unawa at pakikiisa sa araw-araw na pinagdadaanan ng ordinaryong mamamayan,” Robredo said.
“Sa nagdaang mga buwan nakita natin kung gaano kahalaga ang ganitong klaseng pamumuno dahil sa COVID-19," she added.
"Nakikita na natin sa halip na bigkisin tayo ng iisang hangarin at dalhin tayo sa iisang direksyon, lalo pang lumalalim ang pangamba, pagkalito at divisions sa lipunan," Robredo said.
"Nakikita natin ang pagbusal sa mga katulad mo na tumitindig para sa makataong pamumuno,” she told De Lima.
De Lima, a critic of Duterte's, marked her birthday while detained at the PNP Custodial Center. She had been detained since 2016 on drug charges.
Robredo also said critics, dissenters and “champions of free speech” are being tagged as enemies “by default.”
“Ang tanong nga natin, kung walang ginagawang mali, bakit matatakot sa batikos at debate?” Robredo said.
“Kung may mungkahi para mapunan ang kakulangan, hindi ba dapat matuwa pa sila dahil ibig sabihin nananatili ang pakialam ng maraming mamamayan?,” she added.
The vice president made the remarks a few days after she was asked by Duterte not to stoke the fire amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duterte on Tuesday took offense on Robredo’s criticism over the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it is adding “fuel to the fire.”
In a 20-minute speech on Monday night, Robredo, a vocal critic of the Duterte administration, raised the issue of leadership and confidence amid the national health emergency.
Due to this lack of confidence in the government, Robredo said Filipinos "willing to man the oars."
Robredo issued the message after meeting with researchers, analysts, professors, and other experts on the economy over the past weeks on how the country can cope with the backlash of the health crisis that has left millions of Filipinos jobless and hungry.
Moreover, in her greeting, Robredo also encouraged the public to stand up in times of injustice.
“We stand on the side of freedom and rights and dignity of courage and resolve. We owe this to you Senator Leila De Lima and the countless others who have experienced injustice, who have been murdered, who have passed or gotten sick or going hungry due to incompetence and neglect,” she said.
“We carry on your fight at kabilang ang katarungan at kalayaan para sayo sa mga pangunahin naming sinusulong. Kapit lang po.. Inspirasyon ka naming lahat,” she added.
Over 70 personalities gathered on Thursday night to virtually celebrate the 61st birthday of de Lima.
Among the present were Senators Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, Archbishop Soc Villegas, Bishops Ambo David and Broderick Pabillo, Atty. Chel Diokno, former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Neri Colmenares, Rep. Sarah Elago and Samira Gutoc.
This is the fourth time de Lima celebrated her birthday inside her detention at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center. -NB, GMA News