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He said, She said:
Fake news? Or did they see only what they wanted to see?


HE OBVIOUSLY doesn’t like her. She would probably now say the feeling is mutual.

So when Vice President Leni Robredo beat President Rodrigo Duterte to the draw by landing first in the disaster-stricken Tuguegarao, distributing relief goods and some comforting words to the residents who endured roof-high floods at the height of Typhoon Ulysses, the Palace turned red but fidgety.

At the right place and time, Robredo became, to so many people inside and outside Cagayan Valley, the face of the government: responsive and caring. The same people had asked: Where was the President? The question went viral on social media in a matter of minutes.

“This is not a race,” Robredo told a reporter in response to the public wish that the President were there, too.

Quote by Leni Robredo.

This is not a race.

Leni Robredo

It wasn’t a race, all right.

But it seemed a grand show that the chief protagonist was indeed missing in action. Fidgety, the President’s defense panel zeroed in on Robredo, believing that the best defense is a good offense. The President set foot in Tuguegarao hours later, but quickly ranted against Robredo, eclipsing the importance of his own visit. He accused Robredo of initiating the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo, which trended when Ulysses unleashed its fury on Luzon.

That hashtag had no basis, as it was fake news, the Palace said. And Duterte said it was the Vice President who was spreading fake news about him. He was at the Palace attending an ASEAN forum, and all along monitoring the typhoon and crafting an emergency response.

Rather than keep his moral ascendancy with his denial, the President asked Robredo where she sleeps at night, stopping short of saying that the widow had been fooling around. That she now had a boyfriend was a rumor long denied. To this day, it remains simply that—a rumor, which has nothing to do with the disaster response anyway.

Robredo kept her composure, albeit visibly piqued, saying the President was fed wrong information and he believed it. Days later, his two Cabinet officials apologized to her, denying reports that she had used a military chopper for another relief-giving trip to Catanduanes, even if the Vice President was entitled to use a military chopper.

Not to be left out in supposedly defending the President, spokesman Harry Roque held a Palace briefing to show a screenshot of the Twitter accounts of Robredo’s two daughters, asking what the public had asked: Where was the President? The younger women’s tweets, which asked if somebody was still asleep at the height of the typhoon, did not contain any name nor the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo, but apparently referred to the Man at the Palace.

Wrong tree

Hand holding a phone showing Harry Roque and #NasaanAngPangulo tweets.

Was Roque barking up the wrong tree?

For the record, a similar hashtag turned viral at the height of Typhoon Rolly, which battered Luzon the week before on November 1. The public at large made a similar, pejorative call when Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, was still in Malacanang, which prompted the militant groups to coin the word “Noynoying” for his procrastination.

It was the public at large who asked the question, a public seeking his assurance in times of a natural calamity, because only the chief executive has the power to mobilize the resources of the government in times like this. Wonder why in his time, President Fidel Ramos kept on saying: “Everything is under control, we are on top of the situation”?

People see what they want to see. Her supporters believed the President should leave the Palace because he couldn’t do the right thing at the right time. He believed that she had become so restless that she couldn’t wait for her turn to be president.

Some believe either one of the two is fake news. What is not fake is the news that they don’t see eye to eye. Being so, they see only what they want to see—perhaps, especially the President. Wrong information should not get in the way of one’s better judgment.

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