Interview with OVP Spokesperson Atty. Barry Gutierrez Dateline on ANC
Host: Karmina Constantino
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: All right, Vice President, according to Sara Duterte, knows nothing about what is happening on the ground. “Stop politicizing the issue,” she said. Was Vice President politicizing the issue?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: You know, that has been a constant refrain of this administration and its allies over the past year and a half ever since we started struggling with COVID-19. And you know, nothing could be further from the truth: from Day One, the Vice President has been doing all she can to help out our fellow Filipinos and to fill whatever shortcomings there are with respect to COVID response. She has consistently attempted to forward her suggestions to the proper authorities in engaging with the Department of Health, the IATF, DepEd, on a variety of issues related to the pandemic. But you know, they never listened to her, and you know, despite all the work that she’s done, they insist that she’s politicking. Who’s politicking? The first person to talk about the elections is Mayor Duterte and now Secretary Roque. So you know, it’s clear where the politicking is coming from here.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: That’s not the only thing that Mayor Duterte said. She also said that there will be a proper time to attack her performance as a local chief executive in this pandemic if she dares to run for president—of course, she meaning the Vice President. Your thoughts about that?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, to be very clear, there was no attack on Mayor Duterte. It was a simple observation. The cases in Davao are rising and that’s a verifiable fact, and all she said was maybe they can take some lessons from the way that Cebu City handled its own surge. So, I don’t see what the problem is. Why so defensive, why immediately jump to, “let’s meet in the elections”? Besides, Mayor Duterte has been saying she’s not running. Why all of a sudden she’s saying that “we should meet in the elections”? Is that an indirect way of saying that after all her protestations, she in fact is vying a run for president in 2022? After all, there are, you know, Run Sara Run posters all over the place. But the point being, completely an overreaction. No attack involved here. Just an honest to goodness suggestion, which I suppose a lot of other people have also made. But it’s telling that immediately, the reaction is to jump and to frame this as an election issue.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Yeah, you know what the other thing that’s pretty telling is that phrase: “if she dares to run for president.” Do you take that as the mayor sort of belittling the Vice President?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, we are used to people coming from this administration trying to belittle the Vice President. She has been the subject of unrelenting attacks, both on social media and by official spokesperson or spokespeople of this government. So it’s nothing new. We’re used to it. As far as the Vice President is concerned, she is doing her job. She is trying to do well. And she will continue to do so, regardless of reactions like this.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Many were quick to jump in, saying this may just be a preview of things to come come 2022. How close is the Vice President is making her decision, Atty. Gutierrez?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, only she can really answer that question. As far as her latest pronouncement is concerned, she’s still focused on addressing the issue of COVID-19—doing what we can, leading the efforts of the OVP in this regard. And she will make that decision in her own time, and as she said before, when she makes a decision, she will be the one to inform everybody of her plan. So you know, we really have to give her the space and time to come to that decision.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Well, you know who made up his mind about 2022? Atty. Chel Diokno. He told me yesterday that he is running. Of course, he’s part of the list of nominees for VP and president but he also said that the best or the most qualified president for 2022 would be Vice President Leni Robredo. What is the state of talks between the two?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, as far as I know, they have not talked recently because, you know, the Vice President really—is not really engaging in any conversations with respect to running for 2022 specifically. She’s spending her time taking meetings and focusing on work in relation to COVID. But you know, the statement of Atty. Diokno is very welcome, and I’m sure at some point, if the Vice President does decide that she will throw her hat in the ring for 2022, then he will be one of the people she will talk to.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: When you said she’s not engaging, that’s despite the nomination coming from 1Sambayan and really clear and obvious support for her?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, she delivered a message for—during the 1Sambayan launch last Saturday. But you know, it was a one-minute message and her main theme was really that they should unite for 2022. And when she talks about unity, she was quick to point out that it cannot be simply unity among people who think alike or who already agree with each other. If we are to have a serious shot at actually fielding a candidate for the united opposition in 2022, we should expand our circles. We should listen to people who would normally—are not part of the ranks that comprise the opposition traditionally, so we just try to listen and engage more.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Yeah, so expand how? Listen to which sector? Clarify that for us.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, as she very quickly pointed out, if you look at the surveys clearly, then there is a significant number of Filipinos who still approve of the President’s work or performance as of this time. So when we talk about the campaign, when we talk about the elections in 2022, we should also be engaging with people who think the President has done a good job. We should also be engaging with people who do not necessarily agree with everything that the opposition says. That’s the only way to actually win the election—by engaging, and talking, and listening. So it’s not just, you know, at the level of alliances or, you know, political coalitions. I think, more importantly, it’s at the level of talking to ordinary people, talking to voters, talking to regular Filipino citizens who, at the end of the day, will be the deciding factor in 2022.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Does that also mean like reaching out to the President’s official family? To those closely allied with the President, even at the risk of, you know, rejecting that hand of peace coming from the Vice President?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, the Vice President has been very consistent in attempting to engage with members of this administration, as I pointed out earlier, in all the initiatives that we have pursued over the course of the past year and a half, ever since COVID became a problem for the Philippines and for other countries around the world. We have tried to engage with them. And you know, there are times when there has been cooperation. There are times when there has been a rejection. But she has been very consistent. Part of the responsibility of being a leader is engaging. Part of the responsibility of leading is talking to people who, you know, might not belong in the same political camp as [her]. And you know, she has been very consistent with that and she will not stop trying to do that while this problem remains.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: The last time we talked, though, it was the issue about former Senator Antonio Trillanes saying that he would gladly—if she would run for president—would gladly step aside if the Vice President decides to go for the presidency. Back then, you said that you were in constant communication with the group of Trillanes. So does that mean that you’re not engaging—the Vice President is not engaging with 1Sambayan but is engaging with some of her co-nominees?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: No, I said that the communication lines between the Vice President and Trillanes were always open. They did not necessarily talk about the elections. As I also mentioned last time, one the last times they talked was to discuss, I think, a survey, because the Magdalo, the group that Senator Trillanes belongs to, conducts its own survey. So my understanding was the last time they actually had a talk was in respect to Trillanes presenting the latest results of their survey. So you know, obviously there are a lot of issues that we work with with other people, other personalities identified with the opposition. But it’s a completely different thing to say that we’re sitting in on meetings to talk about 2022 and to plan her candidacy. That’s not the focus of the Vice President at this point.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Okay, who among… who among the co-nominees of the Vice President for president and vice president in the 1Sambayan reveal is she most comfortable with? Does she find a good—
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: I think that all of the people—the six nominees—named by 1Sambayan, well of course, aside from herself of course, all of them to a greater extent had a conversation and dealings with the Vice President at one point or another. So that includes Atty. Diokno, that includes of course Sen. Trillanes, that includes Cong. Vilma Santos who used to be a member of the Liberal Party, that includes Bro. Eddie Villanueva, that includes Sen. Grace Poe. So you know, she has not—she has been open to meeting these people, of course, in different contexts. Not in the context of “let’s go run together in 2022.” But in the course of the last five years, she has had cordial relations with all of these people.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: Does she feel that all these names were sort of presented and were picked specifically to arrive at the end goal of having a tandem with the Vice President as the presidential candidate?
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, you know, we wouldn’t want to think that. First of all, we are completely hands-off with respect to the 1Sambayan process. As an independent group, they are doing their own thing. The Vice President has been very clear that she respects what they are trying to do. She agrees broadly with the idea that, you know, that they should be uniting around a common candidate for 2022. But she’s not part of the process and as I’ve already said before in other venues, whenever 1Sambayan decides, well, that would be one of the things that the Vice President will, of course, take into consideration into making her decision. But ultimately, her decision will be her own decision. It will not be contingent to what 1Sambayan does. It will not be dependent on what other people say. But definitely, she will take these into account when she eventually finalizes her plans for the elections.
KARMINA CONSTANTINO: All right. We’ll leave it at that. Atty. Barry Gutierrez, spokesperson of Vice President Leni Robredo. As always, thanks for Zooming in, taking our call. Take care and keep safe.
ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Keep safe and always a pleasure!
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