Updated 16:09 PM PHT Sun, March 12, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday that he may give whistleblower Sandra Cam a government position in exchange for her help in his presidential campaign.
"Utang na loob iyan eh [I owe her]," Duterte said in an ambush interview following the inauguration of the PTV-4 Cordillera Hub in Baguio City.
"Sabi niya magtulong siya sa kampanya and she did campaign," he added. "So iyan ang promise ko at tutulungan ko siya. If she would ask me for work, I would give her the work."
[Translation: She said she would help in my campaign and she did campaign. So that is my promise and I will help her. If she would ask me for work, I would give her the work.]
Duterte's statement comes after media reports surfaced that Cam – who entered the national spotlight after testifying in a 2005 Senate hearing on jueteng – was allegedly involved in a February altercation with staff at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Cam had been escorted to NAIA's VIP lounge while she waited for her flight to Masbate. However, she reportedly got into a heated exchange with an airport worker, who told her that she had to pay a fee to use the lounge unless she could prove that she was a government official.
Cam allegedly flew into a rage and told the workers that she was on the phone with Presidential Assistant Bong Go. She was quoted as saying that she would be a member of the Duterte Cabinet in three months.
When asked for her reaction to the reports on the issue, Cam told CNN Philippines that she never asked for VIP treatment because she "is not that kind of person."
She said, "The main issue was charging me P1,200 to sit the Terminal 4 VIP lounge without anything. They didn't even offer a glass of water or a cup of tea, and asking me of (sic) a government ID and to sign a receipt for that amount is a rip-off."
"Airport police brought me there for security reason because I was alone. Kayo na po ang humusga [It will be up to you to judge], but 2 days after the incarceration of (Senator Leila) De Lima, (I) have been (sic) told by well meaning friends from the media to be extra cautious because LP is researching for something to destroy me. Ito na nga po [And this is it]," she added.
Cam said, "Again, I have done a lot to our country as a whistleblower. Tinaya ko buhay ko [I put my life on the line]. Bahala na tao maghusga [Let people judge me]. Kay PRRD [To President Rodrigo Duterte], thank you so much for being true and understanding. You are really a true leader with conviction. Thank you so much po for getting my side."
No Cabinet opening
Duterte said he was told about the incident, but that it would not affect his decision to consider hiring her.
"Her behavior? Let the public judge it," he said. "Tumulong siya, tutulungan ko siya [She helped me, I'll help her]. And it's not erased just because she was shouting there. That's her business."
However, Duterte said the position for Cam is not yet final.
"Wala pa. Magpatay pa tayo ng Gabinete. Kumpleto na 'yan eh," he said in jest.
[Translation: There isn't one yet. We'd have to kill someone in the Cabinet. It's already complete.]
De Lima critic
Aside from being a whistleblower, Cam is also known for being a vocal critic of Sen. Leila De Lima, Duterte's fiercest political rival.
As President of the Whistleblowers Association of the Philippines, Cam also helped secure suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
Espinosa testified at the Senate that he gave money to De Lima's former driver Ronnie Dayan supposedly in exchange for De Lima's protection for his illegal drug activities.
On Sunday, De Lima gave a written reaction on Duterte's statement he may offer Cam a Cabinet post.
The note, posted on De Lima's Facebook page, said Cam "must not be allowed to have a respectable position on government. She must be investigated instead for certain nefarious activities."
De Lima said Cam, "along with other shady characters and operators," played a role in the "massive demolition job against her."