By Lance Arevada

During the Senate blue ribbon committee’s hearing on the alleged overpriced laptops on Thursday, August 25, former education secretary Leonor Briones went viral online for coming to the inquiry while riding a wheelchair, drawing flak and ridicule from netizens.

Various posts have insinuated that by coming to the Senate in a wheelchair, the former head of the Department of Education (DepEd) is using the ‘formula’ of government officials accused of graft and corruption.

“She's wearing the corruption hearing starter kit,” a netizen said. While another user chided, “Oh dear. Everyone becomes a disabled person during investigative hearings.”

However, Briones, who is turning 82 this October, has already admitted as early as 2017 that she is using a wheelchair whenever she travels due to the state of her knees brought by her advanced age.

“It’s true that I use a wheelchair whenever I travel by plane. But everybody I’m sure here agrees that there is no correlation between the state of my knees and the state of my brains,” the then-secretary defended during her confirmation hearing with the Commission on Appointments.

Twitter user @stibskii, identifying himself as someone who previously worked with Briones, came to the former secretary’s defense as he affirmed that she was already using a wheelchair even during her term.

“We may not be in good terms, but I think everyone needs to know that since 2019, she's already using a wheelchair. Our team made sure no one sees her using it. Prior to her appointment in 2016, she’s been suffering from her slipped disc,” he said in a tweet.
Other netizens have pointed out similar claims on the former secretary’s wheelchair use as well.
Briones faced the Senate blue ribbon committee’s hearing on the alleged overpriced laptops worth P2.4 billion that were procured during her term as DepEd chief.

During the hearing, she was asked by committee chair Sen. Francis Tolentino to go to the Senate’s clinic and be checked by their physician, given her old age.

Nevertheless, Briones highlighted the importance of her presence in the hearing to prove that she is not hiding from the allegations and that she is ready to face all possible questions directed to her.

"So I thank you for this opportunity to come out and say I am not hiding under somebody's bed. I am as visible as you can be. I am very involved in international debates, as well as concerns for developments in the Philippines," she added.