It was another memorable reunion between President Duterte and Vice President Leni G. Robredo marked by a handshake, a presidential apology, and a few laughs.
The President has apologized to Robredo after initially failing to mention her name during his prepared speech at the Philippine Military Academy graduation rites in Baguio City yesterday.
Duterte, trying to make light of the incident, even offered to beat up his speechwriters for omitting Robredo’s name in the roster of top government officials present in the ceremony.
The country’s two highest leaders, who recently had a falling out over political differences, shared the same stage during the graduation of the PMA Salaknib Class of 2017.
“I apologize ma’am. It was not done,” the President said, interrupting the delivery of his prepared speech. “Ang nagsulat ma’am dito hindi ka sinali. Bugbugin na lang natin,” he added, eliciting laughter from the audience.
Duterte made up for the error and repeated his apology to Robredo: “I would like to apologize and acknowledge the presence of this beautiful lady, the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines.”
The commander-in-chief drew applause from the audience for his friendly gesture towards the Vice President. “Sorry, ma’am ha. Nawala na ako tuloy, ma’am,” he quipped, returning to reading his prepared speech.
Upon arrival at the PMA grounds, the President greeted Robredo and shook her hands in a display of civility despite their recent public spat.
The two leaders, however, were seated apart during the ceremony. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana seated between Duterte and Robredo.
Duterte served as the guest of honor and speaker during the PMA graduation rites. He also awarded the presidential saber to the PMA valedictorian Navy Ensign Rovi Martinez.
Robredo, on the other hand, gave the vice presidential saber to PMA salutatorian Philip Viscaya.
It was the first time the two leaders were seen together in a public event since Robredo resigned from the Cabinet last December.
Duterte and Robredo were last photographed together during a closed-door Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council meeting last January. At the time, the Palace claimed the Duterte-Robredo reunion was “warm” and “civil.”
The Palace earlier asked Robredo to stop attending Cabinet meetings, prompting the Vice President to quit her post.
Duterte later admitted he was uncomfortable working with Robredo since she appeared to be part of the group seeking his ouster. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)