MANILA – He visited a popular fast food chain where he charmed both the crew and the customers before leaving with a take-out order, then was seen cuddling a child in Tondo district; and still later, riding an e-jeepney with special features for persons with disability.
Most anyone would agree he was charming enough from his looks alone, but Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau still did these and other acts that obviously fueled the adulation he received everywhere he went during ASEAN Week in the Philippines.
Even employees of the Presidential Communications Office were busy taking selfies with the PM described as a “heart throb” most everywhere he went.
Not everyone is pleased with his acts, even though even hard-nosed journalists covering the 31st ASEAN and related Summits were themselves agog when he visited the International Media Center for a press conference.
To Sen. Cynthia Villar, Trudeau was no matinee idol but someone conveniently turning on the charm each time he’s confronted with one difficult issue: when will Canada take back the over a hundred container vans of trash it dumped in the Philippines nearly five years ago?
The senator, known for her trademark candidness, told reporters in an ambush interview on Thursday as lawmakers went back to work from the long break, “Ako naman, kung ganun kaliit na bagay eh nagpunta sya dito, pero cute na cute naman kayo sa kanya. Ako, di ako na-kyu-cute-an. Matanda na ako, di na ako nababaliw [He just came here and you’re all so wowed by him. But me, I’m not won over by cuteness. I’m too old to go crazy over anybody].”
She was reacting to Trudeau’s response to a query at the IMC press conference, that now, “it’s theoretically possible” already for Canada to take back the trash, two years after he had promised Filipinos – when he attended the 2015 APEC Meeting in Manila – that he would seek a speedy solution to the trash, which by then had been in the country for nearly two years.
On Monday, Trudeau told the press conference that Canada was finding ways have the 1,300-ton garbage shipped back. The trash had been illegally exported to the Philippines by a Canadian company, and the local contacts have been charged by the Philippine government.
After making a winding explanation in French, Trudeau said one issue that had to be resolved was who will pay for shipping back the trash to Canada.
To which Villar reacted on Thursday: “Ang yaman-yaman nila, eh. Ba’t di na lang nila ipabalik? . . . Ibalik na lang. Maraming gimik-gimik [They’re such a rich country. Why don’t they just take it back? Too many gimmicks].”
Meanwhile, some other senators did not like the way Trudeau raised the human rights issue in the Philippines. Trudeau had said he brought up the matter of extra-judicial killings in his one-on-one with President Duterte at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit.
Trudeau told reporters Duterte was “receptive” when he raised the human rights issue, but Duterte later told Filipino media that he felt “personally and officially insulted” by Trudeau’s raising it.
Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto agreed with Duterte’s view that it was “insulting.”
He told reporters Thursday, partly in Filipino, “how come, suddenly [someone brings it up when] the superpowers [US or China] or the EU leadership did not bring it up? Each country has its own problem.. He [Trudeau] should simply attend to his country’s garbage problem.”
Sotto said it is possible Trudeau was using the rights issue as a diversionary tactic to avoid focus on the garbage.
“Frank sila sa human rights pero sa basura hindi sila frank . . . baka pumasok sa utak nya ang pagka-rock star nya sa Pilipinas, kaya naisip nya ‘yan [They’re frank on human rights but not on their own trash problem. Maybe his being a rock star here has gone to his head].”
Sen. Gringo Honasan said respect should be the main watchword of every leader, and expressed hope some countries would not stand in judgment of others, such as the Philippines on the matter of alleged EJKs.
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