For Senator Leila de Lima, the midnight meetings of President Rodrigo Duterte and his COVID-19 Team are nothing more than a show to feed his ego and an opportunity to further pander on China while the communist country continues to illegally occupy our territory while we continue our struggle against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The detained lawmaker said the president’s midnight address follows the usual format: “1) He mentions and reacts on issues; 2) A Secretary sings his praises then gives his report; 3) Repeat #1 & 2,” she said in a statement.

The foremost critic of the president said the midnight meetings and address to the nation gave us a glimpse of Duterte’s leadership style.  According to de Lima, the whole meeting showed Duterte’s leadership style and ego.

“I do not even understand why the Secretaries felt the need to feed Mr. Duterte’s ego. He was not even listening. He was merely waiting for his turn to speak again. Pathetic!,” de Lima said in a statement. She said the president “did not appear interested or even informed of the reports and proposals presented by his Cabinet.”

The April 13 address of Duterte involved members of his COVID-19 team who are mostly cabinet members.  Both Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion praised the president when they were asked to speak by the president.

“First of all, thank you for again being very decisive and protecting the Filipino people against this COVID,” Dominguez said.

Concepcion, meanwhile praised the president for implementing the lockdown early on. “Mr. President, you did the right thing when you locked down at the right time,” Concepcion said.

However, De Lima said the president’s decision to act “sensibly, quickly and decisively on the COVID-19 pandemic” was a failure since Duterte downplayed the threat of the virus and “failed to initiate any semblance of preparation early on.”

De Lima said Duterte’s “subservience” to China is the reason for the country’s failure to prepare better to contain the disease, which she believes is China’s fault.

“He bought into the China propaganda-hook, line, and sinker. By the time he appeared to be moving finally, we were already playing catch up. No amount of propaganda will change that,” she said.

Alam na ng buong mundo ang kasinungalingan at kalokohan ng China sa nangyayaring krisis sa COVID-19. Naghahanda na ang mga gobyerno ng ibang bansa na pagbayarin ang China sa kanilang kasinungalingan. Pero si G. Duterte, tuloy pa rin ang pagyuko at pagsamba sa kanila. Pag hindi pa sya tumigil, baka madamay pa tayo sa magiging maaaring parusa sa China.

The opposition senator was also wondering why the president kept on pressing the issue of selling government property to fund the government’s COVID-19 response efforts when the president’s economic team is doing a decent job raising funds for the same purpose.

For her, selling government assets “should be the last resort.”  De Lima believes there is a deeper

“Meron ba si Duterte na buyer na pinag-iinteresan ang mga ari-arian ng taumbayan? China ba yan o crony niya,” she asked.

She believes that the Philippines can better handle the COVID-19 crisis is Duterte prioritizes “our own people and our own country” and “stop being tools to Chinese propaganda.”

“Tama na po ang pagiging pro-China. Maging pro-Filipino na tayong lahat,” she said.

De Lima’s brush with Duterte started when she was appointed Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She investigated the infamous Davao Death Squad, an alleged vigilante group supposedly connected to then-Davao City mayor and current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. She won a Senate seat in the 2016 General Elections and instantly emerged as a staunch critic to Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

She was arrested and charged in February 2017 for her alleged links to the drug trade while as justice secretary. The charges are non bailable.

De Lima is no stranger to the verbal attacks of the president.

He once called De Lima an “immoral woman” who has “a very sordid personal and official life” (Rommel F. Lopez)