A senatorial aspirant drew criticisms online after posting an old photo op of himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the Russia-Ukraine invasion.
Emmanuel Piñol, who’s seeking a Senate seat in the coming elections, shared the photo on his page on February 24.
“Steely Vladimir Putin! On Nov. 10, 2017 in Danang, Vietnam, I shook hands with Russian leader Vladimir Putin,” Piñol wrote in the caption.
“He had a smile on his face as he posed for photos with the members of the Philippine delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference led by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte,” he added.
The former agriculture secretary further expressed his observations about the so-called Russian “tyrant.”
“Pres. Putin exuded a steely aura which made him look taller and bigger than what he really was. Today, he stands as the central figure in a European crisis which could draw other countries into a conflict of unknown proportions,” Piñol said.
The post itself had since gathered 20,000 reactions, 1,800 comments and circulated 361 times on the platform.
Piñol, however, shared it on the same day that Putin formally launched the invasion of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and other key cities.
This caused thousands of Ukrainian residents to flee their homes for safety.
This was pointed out by some users who criticized the senatorial candidate in the comments section.
“Not so good timing sir, posting your picture with him smiling while Russian forces are in Ukraine fighting, bombarding, killing Ukranian forces and maybe even civilian, by the order of this ‘steely Putin’,” one user said.
“With all due respect, I think it is not the right moment to post this photo though it is your right to post whatever you want,” another user commented.
“The timing of the post is disgusting. While people are praying for Peace, here you are praising Putin!” another user pointed out.
Piñol’s supporters, however, defended him against them.
“Some people doesn’t understand your point. But we know, you’re just sharing your impressions of president Putin. Well taken,” one user said.
Following this backlash, Piñol clarified that he was merely expressing his impressions on Putin.
“To those who accuse me of endorsing President Putin’s actions in Ukraine, please read the article first. I am simply sharing my personal impressions of the man. Don’t just look at the picture. Please read the article,” he said in the comments section.
At the event Piñol was referring to, President Duterte enhanced his ties with Putin during the APEC summit in 2017.
He reportedly told Putin that the Philippines would be buying artillery from Russia.
“I want to build a strong armed forces and a strong police and the reason is very important for you to know that we are eyeing – we are buying arms from Russia this time,” Duterte was quoted as saying that time.
In 2021, the chief executive also met with Putin to order Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V for the Philippines.
Neither Duterte nor the Palace has yet issued a formal statement on Russia’s decision to launch a war against its neighbor.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, assured the public that Filipinos there will be safely and promptly repatriated.