Senator Robin Padilla expressed displeasure at a ranking official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for supposedly being disrespectful in answering his questions in a Senate hearing.
During the Senate finance committee’s hearing on the DFA’s proposed 2023 budget, Padilla said the agency should step up efforts to inform the public about the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, as well as the 2016 arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea.
Padilla said the US assistance to Philippine troops during the 2017 Marawi siege was left wanting despite the MDT and VFA.
DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo told Padilla that the US is committed to defending the Philippines under the MDT, but “clarificatory talks” are still ongoing as to how the treaty will be implemented.
De Vega chimed in and assured Padilla that the government is ready to protect the country.
“Don’t be worried Sen. Robin Padilla. ‘Yung DFA at saka ‘yung gobyerno handang ipagtanggol ang bansa kung sinuman ang lulusob sa atin, maging sinuman sila,” he said.
Padilla appeared dissatisfied with De Vega’s answer, reiterating that the public should be sufficiently informed about the MDT, DFA and the arbitral ruling.
“Kaya ang itatanong ko po sana dun kanina sa barumbadong sumagot na undersecretary, siya po sana ang sumagot, papaano niya i-implement sa gitna ng West Philippine Sea ‘yung arbitral ruling,” he said.
“At kung sasagot po siya, ako po ay senador ng Pilipinas eh galangin po niya ako. Kayo po ‘yun, Undersecretary De Vega,” Padilla added.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who had served as DFA Secretary during the Duterte administration, stepped in to diffuse the seeming tension. He said De Vega’s smiles were only part of his mannerism.
“Mannerism niya lang talaga ang mag-smile. Ed, tama ba, you meant no offense?” Cayetano asked De Vega. “Kasi sa video para bang you were smiling…”
De Vega quickly apologized to Padilla, saying it wasn’t his intention to appear like he was smirking.
“Ah paumanhin po. Hindi po ako nag-smirk. Paumanhin, Senator Padilla,” he said.