PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday, January 5, joked that typhoons should be named "Leni" or "Bernadette," which were names of two women currently occupying posts in government.
Duterte made the joke, as he stressed that the tropical depression that battered Bicol region during holiday break should have not been named after Usman, which refers to a Maranao.
"Alam mo dapat ‘yung mga bagyo, huwag ninyong pangalanan na mga Usman. Eh si Randy Usman, Maranao 'yan eh (You know, the storm should not be named Usman. Randy Usman is a Maranao). He's my brother in the Maranao side," Duterte said in a situation briefing with Cabinet and local officials in storm-stricken Camarines, Sur, eliciting laughter from his audience.
"Mga Bernadette, ganun. Leonora. Si Leni. Ganun ba para (It should be Bernadette. Leonora. Leni. It should be)... No, we should not take her name in vain," he added.
"Bernadette" and "Leni" were apparent references to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, who hails from Camarines Sur.
The state weather bureau recently released a roster of local names, such as Betty and Liwayway, for storms that may hit the country this year.
Romulo-Puyat was appointed by Duterte last year following the resignation of former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, who was embroiled in a P60-million advertisement controversy.
Robredo, on the other hand, was once part of Duterte's Cabinet, serving as housing czar. She, however, gave up her Cabinet post in December 2016 because of "irreconcilable differences" with the Chief Executive.
In a July 2018 speech, Duterte described Robredo as "weak" and "incompetent" leader who is unable to lead the country.
But in his latest remarks, Duterte said Robredo, who he said is "very beautiful," was the reason why he would prioritize giving aid to typhoon victims in the Bicol Region.
"You know, the reason why I gave you the priority in the project is that you have a very beautiful Vice President here. Leni. Tell her that she's really beautiful," the President said.
A total of 122 people were confirmed dead after the onslaught of Usman, which brought heavy rains in in the Bicol Region on Decembr 29, triggering a deadly landslides and flooding. (SunStar Philippines)