VICE president Leni Robredo has quit her post as housing chief after president Duterte ordered her “to desist from attending all cabinet meetings” from today (Monday, December 5).
Although she intends to remain in her post as vice president, she is currently facing a legal challenge from Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jnr, whom she defeated by a narrow margin in this year’s elections.
In a statement released after stepping down from her cabinet role, she said: “This is the last straw, because it makes it impossible for me to perform my duties. Hence, I am tendering my resignation from the cabinet. With this resignation, you can expect that I will continue to support the positive initiatives of this administration and oppose those that are inimical to the people’s interest.”
Robredo, aged 52, a former lawyer and social activist, had previously complained of encountering “obstacles” in her role as Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairman, which she blamed on a lack of support from the executive branch.
“One, the budget for all key shelter agencies in 2017 has been slashed by more than 19 billion pesos.” she said. “Two, all our key shelter agency appointment recommendations have not been acted on. Three, the Executive Order designed to make HUDCC effective was not signed.”
In the Philippines, the president and vice president are elected in separate contests. Although the office of vice president doesn’t have a specific constitutional function, it’s traditional that the post-holder is given a cabinet position. Robredo was elected for the then-ruling Liberal Party (LP) while Duterte was the standard-bearer for the now-ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.
Duterte has claimed that the LP wants to oust him, even though it doesn’t have a majority in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. Robredo, currently the most senior serving LP member, denies these accusations.
Plot to steal the vice presidency
In her statement released yesterday evening (Sunday, December 4), Robredo claimed she had been “warned of a plot to steal the vice presidency.”
“We had hoped this day would not come,” she said. “I had been warned of a plot to steal the vice presidency. I have chosen to ignore this and focus on the job at hand. But the events of recent days indicate that this plot is now being set into motion.
“From the very beginning, the president and I had major differences in principles and values. Since I assumed office, I have been consistent in my opposition to issues such as the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, extra-judicial killings, reinstating death penalty, lowering the age of criminal liability and sexual attacks against women.”
Despite resigning her ministerial post, she said she would continue in her role as vice president. “We both had a mandate to serve the people. I had hoped that this shared commitment to the poor and marginalised would transcend the differences between us.
“However, as your duly elected vice president, I will not allow the vice presidency to be stolen. I will not allow the will of the people to be thwarted. I will continue to serve the Filipino family and fulfil their dream for a better life.”
Duterte has been open about his personal ties to the Marcos family. Although his mother once led the anti-Marcos movement in Davao City, his father served in the late-president’s cabinet.
The late leader’s only son, former senator Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr, lost the vice presidential race to Robredo by a slim margin. He is now contesting her victory, claiming that the vote was rigged.
During his recent state visit to China, the president made a light-hearted reference to this appeal, suggesting he may soon have a new vice president.
This possibility has led to sources close to Robredo expressing alarm that a recount could be conducted without the direction of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
The working relationship between Duterte and his vice president has been strained from the outset, with the president once saying he wasn’t keen on appointing Robredo to the cabinet, because it might hurt Marcos’ feelings.