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Leni weak, not fit to lead

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President Rodrigo Duterte fired volleys late Thursday at his usual detractors calling Vice President Leni Robredo as being too weak to succeed him and said groups supporting detained Sen. Leila de Lima are shameless.

Mr. Duterte said he was not comfortable leaving the country in the hands of Robredo.

“I do not mean to offend the lady. She’s very good, she’s gentle but Leni is weak,” Duterte said before members of the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association Inc. (PMAAAI) Thursday night in Malacañang.

Robredo, mandated by the Constitution to take over the highest seat in government in the event the President steps down before he wraps up his six-year term, has had a strained relationship with Mr. Duterte.

The President, although admitting Robredo has a good head on her shoulders for having passed the Bar, said she lacked the skills in crafting strategies and that she is not firm on making decisions.

“If there’s a situation and she needs to make a decision, she’ll make the wrong decision. She’s weak in strategizing, but she’s not stupid because she passed the Bar. But she lacks the skills,” Duterte said.

Of late, the Chief Executive has time and again broached his desire to leave Malacañang citing the challenges he faces as the leader of the nation on the daily, his frustration with corruption in government, of illegal drugs still prevalent despite his intensified campaign against narcotics and the never-ending speculations surrounding his health as reasons for him wanting to “go home to Davao.”

No confidence

Duterte expressed his doubts at Robredo’s leadership in the same speech in which he admitted having a check up at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center the day before.

Mr. Duterte also unleashed his anger against groups which recognized De Lima with an award.

“Look at De Lima. Before the international crowd, she’s a Joan of Arc. Son of a bitch, they even gave her a medal of valor,” Mr. Duterte said.

Duterte also lashed out at the European Union which he said organized the International Criminal Court and appointed judges and prosecutors with limited knowledge of international law.

“We did not participate, then it will venture into looking at what is reported wrong here, and the shameless fools wanted me jailed,” he added.

Duterte also cited former United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein who once incensed the President for urging him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

“Their chairman is a relative of the King of Jordan. It is an autocratic country, not democratically installed. Autocratic,” he said.

De Lima was imprisoned in February last year over her alleged involvement in the illegal drugs trade.

Robredo, in a statement, insisted that being sick, referring to Mr. Duterte, is not an excuse to attack her character.

“Let’s work on the nation’s problems instead of pinning blames on the previous administration, on his critics, and on me,” she said.

Robredo claimed the President’s “skill” even had ill effects on the economy.

Rody wants Harry to stay

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, meanwhile, said Mr. Duterte wanted to retain him in the Cabinet instead of him running for a Senate post.

“We had a command conference where the President asked me to stay and offered me a position which currently does not exist yet. While there was no categorical agreement on what to do, I did say I would consider it and I wanted the weekend to think it over,” Roque said.

“I appreciate the trust and confidence of the President that, unlike other spokespersons, I had access even to his daily schedule,” Roque said.

Roque likewise shared that he may no longer be effective speaking for and on behalf of Duterte if he is uninformed of certain things.

“I do concede that his going to the diagnostic exam was something that I did not know and therefore I’m inclined to believe that perhaps I’m not in a position to continue with this current function,” stated Roque, his voice with an obvious tinge of hurt and disappointment, before attempting to walk away from the podium.

After some prodding, Roque made his way back and yielded to several questions from reporters covering Malacañang.

He bared that during the President’s command conference with the military and police on Thursday night, in a private conversation, he was urged by Duterte to reconsider his decision of running for senator in the mid-term polls.

Although he did not elaborate, talks recently circulated of the possible revival of the Office of the Press Secretary to replace the Presidential Communications Operations Office with Roque being considered to take the helm.

“The President asked me to stay and offered me a position which currently that does not exist yet. While there was no categorical agreement on what to do, I did say I will consider it and I wanted the weekend to think it over,” Roque said.

“In my decision on whether or not to run or accept whatever the Office of the President may have offered, I will consider the fact in this capacity as a spokesperson I must know everything about the President,” he stressed.

Roque also touched on Duterte’s “joke” at a gathering of Philippine Military Academy alumni discouraging him from going ahead with his senatorial bid given his slim chances of winning a seat, languishing at the bottom of a survey of probable frontrunners in the May 2019 elections and him “not being liked” by the soldiers.

He said the President was just being “typical Duterte” and was just showing “cariño brutal” and insisted he bears no ill feelings towards Duterte.

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