BAGUIO CITY: They are at odds in politics.
But this did not show when President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo together graced the commencement exercises of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City on Sunday.
Duterte and Robredo, however, were one seat apart from each other, with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana sandwiched between them.
Before taking his seat, the President greeted Robredo and shook her hand.
The Vice President was all smiles when she faced the Chief Executive.
The country’s two top leaders, whose relationship became strained after Robredo quit her Cabinet post in December over her opposition to the hero’s burial given to the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, were invited to grace the commencement rites of the PMA “Salaknib” Class of 2017.
Duterte, as commander in chief of the Armed Forces, was the guest of honor. He presented the presidential saber to Cadet 1st Class Rovi Martinez, who ranked first among the 167 graduating cadets.
Robredo, meanwhile, presented the vice-presidential saber to the class salutatorian, Cadet 1st Class Philip Viscaya.
Duterte apologized for failing to acknowledge Robredo at the start of his speech.
“I apologize, Ma’am, it was not done,” the President said as he blamed the blunder on his speech writer.
“Ang nagsulat ma’am dito hindi ka sinali [The one who wrote this excluded you, ma’am]… I would like to apologize and acknowledge the presence of this beautiful lady, the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. Sorry, ma’am ha,” he added.
Duterte and Robredo last met in a Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council meeting held in Malacañang in early January.
Robredo, who was restricted from attending Palace activities, has become an outspoken critic of the Duterte administration.
Duterte has accused Robredo’s Liberal Party of plotting to oust him.