Vice-President Leni Robredo’s office: “Our office received an invitation to the Vin d’honneur via e-mail last Dec. 28, 2016. On Jan. 4, Malacañang called the Office to retract the invitation, stating that the guest list was limited.”
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella: “It is the prerogative of the Palace to invite those who they feel is needed to be there.”
So the Palace did not feel the Vice-President needed to be at the Vin d’Honneur?
What is this Vin d’Honneur thing anyway? It is an official function hosted by the president as head of state, a tradition that goes back decades.
To quote an article titled “Briefer on the New Year Vin d’Honneur 2013,” from the government’s Official Gazette:
“In times past, the annual New Year’s reception was quite the social event, the traditional “open house” being an opportunity for high government officials, former presidential families, members of Congress, the Judiciary, the diplomatic corps, and business and social circles to mingle freely and relatively informally in the Palace.
“After the EDSA Revolution, the traditional New Year’s reception was continued, but came to be known from the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino onward, as a Vin d’honneur. The term comes from the French practice, which means ‘wine of honor.’ It traditionally takes place at the end of inaugurations, speeches, and ceremonies that marks the social life of the French provinces. In the Philippine context, over the years it has come to be considered primarily a diplomatic event, which features a toast exchanged between the President of the Philippines and the Papal Nuncio, who is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps.”
(To read the full version of the Vin d’Honneur briefer on the Official Gazette Web site, please visit the link http://bit.ly/wineofhonor)
What is the Vice-President? Under the Constitution, the only function of the Vice-President is to wait for the presidency to be vacated.
But because no one knows if and when the Presidency will be vacated, it is vital that his successor hit the ground running should the unthinkable happen.
That’s why, friend or foe, the President must keep the Vice-President in the loop as far as matters of state are concerned.
And that includes giving the rest of the world, the local officialdom, and his potential successor an opportunity to get to know each other. Official state functions are one of those getting to know occasions.
The problem with Rodrigo Duterte and his administration of former classmates, former dorm mates, frat brods, kababayans, and buddies is that they are unable to differentiate between the person and the office.
They see nothing wrong with Duterte cursing and insulting foreign leaders or just anyone he wants to when he feels like it. They see no difference between Duterte the President of the Philippines and Duterte as Digong. “He’s just being real” is the popular refrain.
But there is a difference. A crucial difference. When one speaks as President of the Philippines, he speaks for the entire nation and when he speaks as Digong he only speaks for himself. He can say anything he wants in private but a certain decorum is expected of him in public because he represents, is in fact the personification of the entire nation.
The same thing applies to not inviting the Vice-President to official state functions. It is not just Leni that the Palace downgraded, it is the Vice-Presidency as well.
The Constitution created the Vice-President for a reason, and only an idiot will not see the wisdom behind creating a position that will enable a smooth transition of power should the unthinkable happen.
It is okay to mount a propaganda campaign against Leni the politician and to destroy her chances of ever holding any sort of elected office again because that’s politics. But it is not okay to downgrade the position of Vice-President as needless because that position should be beyond politics.
There are times when our people and the world must be reminded that when matters of state are involved we are above petty political squabbles. And that’s why the Vice-President should always be in official state functions.
Felipe Q. Buencamino is a senior fellow of Action for Economic Reforms