No secret meeting with Comelec chief – Leni

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Leni Robredo and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista yesterday dismissed as “malicious” a video supposedly showing them at a secret meeting recently.

A viral post online alleged that Robredo and Bautista are brewing up a conspiracy in response to the poll protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).

“There is no such secret meeting,” Robredo said. “I attended a dinner party, which had around 40 guests. One of them was the Comelec Chairman.”

Bautista said the meeting with Robredo was not secret at all since it was a social gathering attended by members of the diplomatic community and other guests.

“There is no truth to such malicious video, I laughed after learning about it,” Bautista said in a radio interview.

Robredo said other people were also at the event, including Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

“That’s very malicious. It would be better if they can show that we were actually having that meeting,” she added.

She said she only greeted Bautista and that no further conversation happened.

The viral video claimed that the meeting happened at Urdaneta Apartments in Makati City on July 12, the day Robredo took her oath before President Duterte as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

It claimed the “meeting” happened hours after the Supreme Court – acting as PET – ordered her camp to respond to the petition filed by Marcos.

The video showed photos of Robredo entering the building, as well as videos of her and Bautista claiming that they left the venue 30 minutes apart.

But responding to the video, the Vice President said the dinner party was just one of the many events that she has been attending since taking office.

“I devote a lot of my time looking for partners who I can ask for help in initiating projects,” she said.

“I always say that the Office of the Vice President does not have much mandate to execute programs so we need private partnerships.”

Robredo said she went to the dinner party, which was also attended by her children, immediately after the Cabinet meeting in Malacañang that tackled the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on the Philippine case against China.

“When I arrived, dinner was already finished… I was there for around one and a half hours,” she added.

Jesse died in an accident

Robredo also responded to questions surrounding the death of her husband, former interior secretary Jesse Robredo, whose plane crashed in August 2012.

Various posts have recently circulated online noting that former National Capital Region Police Office regional director Joel Pagdilao was among those who accompanied former interior undersecretary Rico Puno when he tried to raid Robredo’s condominium after the crash.

Pagdilao was among five police generals tagged by President Duterte as involved in the illegal drug trade in the country, an allegation that he vehemently denied.

Some of the posts claimed the late interior secretary was investigating Pagdilao and other officials when his plane crashed, giving rise to various conspiracy theories among netizens.

But Robredo dismissed the issue, stressing that her husband died in an accident.

She also said she was not aware of the nature of investigation that her husband was conducting during his tenure at the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

At the same time, Robredo said the President has yet to fill the vacancies in other posts in the HUDCC that she said are “crucial.”

Robredo said under the law, she could only recommend but she has no power to appoint.

“I did not ask for anything or whatever, but I said that it is crucial that the choices are not only good (at their job) but also those who have integrity,” she added.

“There are a lot of opportunities that, if not utilized correctly, the services will suffer.”

As housing czar, Robredo will be in control of various housing agencies such the National Housing Authority (NHA), Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board and the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG.

Robredo said both Secretary to the Cabinet Leoncio Evasco Jr. and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea have assured her that she will be consulted regarding the appointments.

She said Evasco told her that someone has been chosen to head NHA, although the person’s name was not disclosed by Robredo yesterday.

Robredo said she would soon meet with representatives of shelter agencies to discuss housing programs and policies.  – With Mayen Jaymalin

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