LIST: Robredo debunks Duterte admin's false claims on typhoon efforts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 18) — Vice President Leni Robredo is not letting misinformation take the upper hand against her and her office's relief drive for victims of recent disasters.

In his televised public address on Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte spent almost 30 minutes of his time lambasting Robredo for supposedly questioning his whereabouts during the height of Typhoon Ulysses, along with other misleading accusations against the Vice President's rescue and relief efforts.

Robredo was quick to refute some of these "false claims" over social media and in an interview with reporters in Ragay, Camarines Sur on Wednesday.

CNN Philippines breaks down these issues and what the Office of the Vice President did on the ground during the onslaught of the recent typhoons that hit most of Luzon.

1. Did Robredo question Duterte's absence at the height of the recent typhoons?

CLAIM: President Rodrigo Duterte said Robredo initiated criticisms of his supposed absence at the height of Typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco), which unleashed destructive winds, rains, and massive flooding in some parts of Luzon on November 11 and 12.

"She made a blunder, a big one, and she practically lied making her incapable of truth. Alam mo ‘yung pakana niya na wala ako sa bagyo... I was here, dito. I was attending a summit ASEAN Summit ‘yon. (You know what she started about questioning my absence during the typhoon... I was here, I was attending the ASEAN Summit)."

FACT: On November 12, Duterte was virtually present at the 37th ASEAN Summit with other member-countries. Around this time, Typhoon Ulysses was already bringing heavy rainfall and flooding inside and outside Metro Manila after making its third landfall in Quezon province.

The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo (Where is the President?) first trended on Twitter on November 3, as netizens claimed Duterte was not in the first briefings of public officials who were assessing the extent of damage caused by Super Typhoon Rolly. The hashtag trended anew on November 12 at the height of Typhoon Ulysses and Duterte defended his absence in a taped address by saying he would have wanted to swim in floodwaters to empathize with affected residents but he was prohibited.

Robredo neither tweeted with this hashtag, nor questioned Duterte's absence in any of her media interviews. In a tweet on Tuesday night, she quickly refuted the President's claim and called out whoever was "peddling fake news to the President."

"I am also calling out whoever peddled the fake news to the President, kaya ganito siya kapikon (this is why he was easily angered like this). I never said 'Where is the President?' You can review all my tweets."

In her interview in Camarines Sur, Robredo said she did not know how the trend started and noted that the same question also used to come up under the Aquino administration. She also acknowledged Duterte's presence at the ASEAN and suggested what message should have been delivered to the public at the height of the typhoon.

"Noong walang information, alam mo kapag humihingi iyong mga kababayan natin ng tulong, kailangan mayroong lumabas, whether ako iyon, whether si Pangulo iyon, puwede nga si Secretary Harry Roque o iyong head ng NDRRMC, puwedeng lumabas at sabihin, 'narinig namin kayo. Nakuha namin iyong lahat na calls for help niyo. Help is coming. Gagawin namin iyong lahat para masalba kayo.' Dapat ganoon iyong mensahe."

[Translation: When information was not available and residents are calling for help, someone had to appear and whether that's me, the President, or Secretary Harry Roque, or the head of the NDRRMC, anyone can come out and say 'we hear you and we received your calls for help. Help is coming. We will do our best to save you.' That should have been the message.]

READ: Duterte fumes over Robredo’s typhoon efforts: ‘Do not compete with me’

2. Did Robredo merely make calls and order the military when responding to the typhoon-hit areas?

CLAIM: Duterte said in his speech that Robredo did nothing but make calls during the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.

"Do not compete with me and do not start a quarrel with me kasi ikaw wala ka talagang nagawa except ‘yang mga tawag-tawag. Tatawag ka kunwari 'o nasaaan na ‘yung mga helicopter nalipad na ba'?"

[Translation: Do not compete with me and do not start a quarrel with me because you did nothing aside from making calls only. You would pretend taking calls and asking 'where is the helicopter, did it take off already?]

He also criticized Robredo for coordinating with the military because she is "not in the line of authority."

FACT: As early as 1 a.m. on November 12, Robredo was already tweeting about "trapped residents, extreme flooding, and cries for help." She said in a separate tweet that she "spent the entire night" answering calls for rescue in Bicol. She added that her office had received complaints from the region, along with Marikina City and Rizal province, that residents were not warned enough about the strength of the typhoon.

On the same day, she crowdsourced for rubber boats which can be lent for local government units' rescue efforts and reposted calls for rescue from various areas inside and outside Metro Manila. Her office also received medicine and food supplies for victims who were still reeling from the effects of Super Typhoon Rolly.

Over the past weeks, Robredo herself went to various communities in Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay, Cagayan, Marikina City, and Rizal to check on the condition of residents affected by typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses. She also personally distributed relief packs and basic necessities to them.

Robredo told the media that she had forwarded distress calls not just to the military, but to the police and other public responders. She said it was an "obligation" to relay these pleas to officials during the calamity, hence, all hands must be on deck.

"Iyong sinasabing ino-orderan ko iyong mga military, mali din iyon. Tayo, lahat ng distress calls na natatanggap natin ay pinapasa natin to whoever was on the ground and iyong AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) was part of that. At hindi lang AFP, pati PNP (Philippine National Police), pati officials."

[Translation: It was wrong to claim I was ordering the military. When we receive distress calls, we pass them on to whoever was on the ground and the AFP was part of that. And it's not just the AFP, but the PNP and other officials as well.]

3. Did Robredo 'free-ride' on the government's response to Typhoon Ulysses?

CLAIM: On Monday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo accused Robredo of "free-riding" by using a government plane when she visited typhoon-hit Catanduanes over the weekend to make it look like the relief goods came from her. He cited an exchange of messages with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana after making this claim.

"Sumabay ka doon sa mga relief goods. O 'di parang ikaw ang may dala noon (You arrived along with the relief goods so it would look lke you brought them there)," Panelo said in his commentary show on state television network PTV.

FACT: Robredo said this was "100% false", noting that her office can still take action with available resources when reaching out to the affected areas.

"Iyon talaga, 100% false. Never akong gumamit ng C-130 plane. At kami, ang dami naming ginagawa sa opisina na hindi naman ako sa kanila humihingi ng tulong," she told reporters Wednesday.

[Translation: That's 100% false. I never used a C-130 plane. And we, we have been doing a lot in the office without asking for any help.]

READ: Robredo visits typhoon-devastated areas in Bicol region 

Later in the day, Lorenzana himself said that after verification, only relief goods from Robredo's office were indeed ferried to Catanduanes at the time. He and Panelo then apologized to Robredo's camp for the mistake.

The Office of the Vice President has the lowest share of the 2021 budget among all government agencies. Even lawmakers appealed to raise the ₱679 million budget to over ₱1 billion to help her reach out to different sectors in need.

Robredo herself said they intend to "make do with what they have. And it has always been the case."