Robredo, LP solons draw flak over Holocaust Memorial picture
A picture of Vice President Leni Robredo happily posing with several Liberal Party legislators at the Holocaust Memorial in Germany has drawn flak from supporters of the Duterte administration for being disrespectful of the victims of genocide by the Nazis.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. has since taken down the picture from his Twitter feed – but not before pro-Duterte social media personalities shared it on their Facebook pages.
Only Baguilat has addressed the issue so far, saying: “We posed at the Holocaust Memorial not to demean the place.”
“But I took down the tweet immediately so as not to hurt sensibilities,” Baguilat said in a Twitter post on Sunday evening (Manila time). Many of the replies insisted that he apologize, but he has yet to reply.
The Inquirer tried to seek a reaction from Robredo, as well as Reps. Arlene Bag-ao, Bolet Banal, Kit Belmonte and Miro Quimbo and Sen. Francis Pangilinan. All of them have not responded as of this writing.
Robredo only addressed the allegations that the Liberal Party’s study trip was taxpayer-funded. In a Facebook post on Sunday, her office said the trip was fully financed by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and “no amount was charged to the Philippine government.”
Baguilat also stressed the same point in his Twitter post, and added: “In the study trip, we discussed shared democratic values.”
The picture showed the sunglass-wearing Robredo smiling while sitting with her legs crossed in one of the stelae (concrete slabs), which she shared with Belmonte.
Like Robredo, Dinagat Islands Rep. Arlene Bag-ao was also smiling while seated on another slab. Pangilinan stood behind Robredo with his arms crossed.
Baguilat, meanwhile, put his arms on one of the stelae and rested his chin on his right hand.
Former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad stood in the background while leaning on another slab with his left arm. Quimbo and Banal could also be seen standing.
The controversy gained traction after the picture was posted on the Facebook page “Luminous by Trixie Cruz-Angeles & Ahmed Paglinawan” on Saturday night.
The post read: “I am not sure if anyone has informed you of the etiquette involved in taking pictures at this site. But this is a place of great sorrow, great tragedy.”
“You do not take pictures here and smile like you’re in a fashion shoot. The place deserves solemnity and reverence and yes, mourning,” the post added. “Your party and sympathizers consider pro-Duterte people rude and uncouth. But you… you are plainly disrespectful and ignorant.”
Posing for fun photos in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – as the place is formally known – is generally frowned upon and international media is rife with articles about the practice.
The Washington Post in January 2017 wrote about the Yolocaust project – “a play on the ‘you only live once’ mentality of selfie-takers” – which shames the worst offenders.
This was not the first time a high-ranking Philippine official was criticized for disrespecting the memory of the Jews slaughtered under the regime of Adolf Hitler.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sept. 30, 2016 likened himself to Adolf Hitler in his defense of his brutal antidrug campaign.
“Hitler massacred there million Jews,” he said. “There’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said in a speech.
Israel’s foreign ministry spokesperson even called the remark “unfortunate.”
Two days later, on Oct. 2, 2016. Duterte said: “I apologize profoundly and deeply to the Jewish community.”
He said his intention was to illustrate how his critics have unfavorably compared him to the Nazi leader.
Baguilat issues apology
On Monday evening, Baguilat said: “I apologize for this lapse in my post.”
“We, as human rights advocates, fully understand the plight experienced by Jews under the Nazis and we would be the last to disrespect their memory, in the same way that we condemn injustice anywhere in the world, including our own country,” Baguilat said.
In a phone interview on Monday evening, Banal, who had been on a flight the whole day with his party-mates, said they have been respectful of the memorial and their German guides said the monument was designed to be used and sat on by people.
Banal said of the online Duterte supporters who took issue with the picture: “Why are we not insulted, sensitive or outraged instead about the victims of EJKs [extrajudicial killings] without due process, has not been explained, and has been plentiful?”
Sought for comment, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party, said in a text message: “It really is a non-issue, considering that the taking of photos and sitting on the stone slabs is not prohibited and that in fact the website of the memorial is filled with photos of visitors seated on these stone structures.” /atm
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