Robredo hits Duterte for 'glorifying a dictator'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 1) — As Vice President Leni Robredo praised recipients of a prestigious award for transformative leadership, she criticized President Rodrigo Duterte's governance.

"Quiet courage and empathy, and leaders that put in the hard work of actually transforming the lives of people, are rarities in these times, when dictatorship is claimed by some to be better," Robredo said in a speech Friday as she led the presentation ceremony of the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

In a statement released earlier that day, Robredo hit back at the President for saying he would rather leave the country in the hands of a "dictator" like the late President Ferdinand Marcos, instead of Robredo, his constitutional successor.

Robredo said, "Instead of continuing to glorify a dictator who stole billions from our country, drove the nation into debt, and presided over the murder and imprisonment of thousands of Filipinos, he (Duterte) can work on truly unifying the nation, and assuring our people, especially those at the fringes, that their voices are being heard and that their daily suffering will soon be eased."

Marcos is accused of amassing billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth and human rights violations during his two-decade rule.

"When those trusted by the electorate threaten lives instead of protect them, divide the nation instead of unite it, attack people's cherished beliefs instead of nourishing them, and present themselves only through bravado and empty promises as the antidote to what they say are outdated and decaying ideas like democracy, we don't move towards a better future," Robredo said in her speech.

Instead, Robredo said countries with these kinds of leaders are off to "a scorched-earth existence where people are killed, institutions are decimated, and our very way of life is threatened."

'Quiet heroes'

Robredo called the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees as the "quiet, courageous, and hardworking heroes", whom their countries need to avoid such grim future, inspiring people to still be "defiantly hopeful."

This year's awardees included Philippines' Howard Dee, who was recognized for "his abiding dedication to the pursuit of social justice and peace in achieving dignity and progress for the poor, and his being, by his deeds, a true servant of his faith and an exemplary citizen of his nation." Dee co-founded the Assisi Development Foundation in 1975, a foundation that seeks to "pursue peace through development with justice."

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, dubbed as the Asia's version of the Nobel Prize, is given annually to individuals or organizations in Asia who have shown selfless service and positive influence that marked the life of the late President Ramon Magsaysay. It was established in 1957, and has been awarded to over 300 laureates.

Other winners this year include Youk Chhang from Cambodia, Maria de Lourdes Martins Cruz from East Timor, Bharat Vatwani from India, Vo Thi Hoang Yen from Vietnam, and Sonam Wangchuk from India.

Duterte-Robredo word war

The verbal tussle between the country's highest government officials come as Duterte publicly accuses Robredo of incompetence.

Malacañang on Friday said the President believes "almost anyone," including a dictator, would be a better successor than Robredo. Duterte earlier said he prefers Marcos' son, former Sen. Bongbong Marcos, who has filed an electoral protest claiming that he, not Robredo, won the 2016 vice presidential race.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday also said the President's allegations are all based on facts, including his claims that Robredo's hometown, Naga City, is a "hotbed of shabu" and that her brother-in-law was to blame.

Robredo on Friday dismissed these claims as "ridiculous" and called on the President to just get back to work.