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'Si lugaw' remark made in jest but VP Leni 'non-essential' —Densing

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III on Thursday clarified that his controversial "Si lugaw" remark was made in jest.

Densing, however, said it was Vice President Leni Robredo -- who has been associated with lugaw (rice porridge) by her critics -- who is "non-essential."

"Ano siya, pabiro ang delivery pero [that was just a joke but] I'm serious in saying that she (Robredo) is a non-essential today," Densing told GMA News Online in a phone interview.

"Wala siyang ginawa. Lahat ng sinasabi niya puro criticisms, unfounded, minsan magbibigay siya ng program pero nagawa na ng gobyerno."

(She has not done anything. All she does is make unfounded criticisms. Sometimes she'd come up with programs that have already been done by the government.)

Critics associate Robredo with lugaw as her supporters sold the food to raise funds for her candidacy in the 2016 national elections.

"I stand by my position that the Vice President is non-essential at this point in the fight against COVID-19," Densing said.

Robredo's spokesperson, lawyer Ibarra Gutierrez, took to Twitter to respond to Densing, whom he said  "epitomizes the administration’s COVID-19 response."

"With cases rising, hospitals full and millions struggling… instead of doing real work, he makes 'jokes,' plays politics, and bashes someone who's actually doing the job they're supposed to," Gutierrez said.

"Di lang ito 'non-essential.' Ito ay pabigat [He is not only non-essential, he is a burden]," he added.

Densing's "si lugaw" remark comes from a One PH interview on Wednesday where he was asked to comment on the incident where a rider was barred from delivering lugaw by a barangay official amid the enhanced community quarantine. The barangay official said porridge is not considered essential.

Why non-essential?

In a separate text message, Densing said Robredo  is non-essential" because of her unfounded comments against IATF policies and her "criticisms without vetting, such as her comments against travel protocols.

"Saying that travel protocols should have been consulted with the LGUs, she not knowing that before these protocols were issued the governors and mayors were consulted," Densing said.

Densing's "Si lugaw" remark in the One PH interview gained criticisms online.

According to Densing, he also explained during the television interview the guidelines on what is essential or not during the ECQ in Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal.

"That's just one portion of the interview... kung papakinggan niyo 'yung buong interview, ipinaliwanag ko doon in detail ano essentials, ano hindi essentials. Ipinaliwanag ko rin doon ano 'yung puwedeng gawin para ma-improve 'yung communications," Densing said.

(If you listen to the whole interview, you'll hear that I explained in details what are considered essential and non-essential. I also explained possible ways to improve communications.)

Regarding the incident, Densing said he believes that the barangay official involved was "in good faith" when she barred the delivery of porridge.

Still, Densing said the DILG would reiterate the rules and regulations in this ECQ as modifications were made from the ECQ last year.

"Ang balak sana namin is papuntahan para pagsabihan at bigyan ng tamang interpretasyon sa buong barangay kasi mamaya buong barangay ang namimisinterpret..." he said.

For its part, the Philippine National Police also reminded that "the delivery of food to a requesting party on quarantine at their residence is essential and must not be subject of issuance of LGU-sanctioned ticket done within the NCR Bubble."

PNP spokesman Police Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana advised those who have complaints to seek assistance from the nearest police stations for appropriate action. —KBK, GMA News