DAVAO CITY—President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday night that it never crossed his mind to give Vice President-elect Leni Robredo a Cabinet post because he was too busy giving jobs to friends to whom he owes a debt of gratitude.
Duterte’s remarks came despite assurances from his inner circle that Robredo would not be a wallflower in the incoming administration.
But Duterte rejected suggestions that he put a premium on friendship over qualifications, and said it was his limited ‘‘spheres of influence” that kept his choices to his province mates, former classmates and friends.
Speaking to reporters for the first time after being declared the president-elect by Congress, Duterte admitted that he had not considered Robredo, the Liberal Party candidate, for anything.
“That never entered my mind actually,” he said.
Pressed for further comment, Duterte appeared irked. “Why should I talk to her?” he asked. “I have not considered anything for her because I’m more worried where will I place friends [to whom] I [owe a] debt of gratitude,” Duterte said. “I should not be looking beyond my borders yet.”
He added that he had to look out for “the party guys” who were loyal to him all along, and who contributed to his election victory.
Robredo won the vice presidency over Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. by a narrow margin of 263,473 votes, amid allegations of poll fraud.
In an interview Saturday, Robredo dismissed the accusations from the Marcos camp, adding that she would not demand from Duterte any Cabinet position unless she is asked to do so.
“For me, I don’t have the right to demand from him any Cabinet portfolio. But if he will be asking me for a preference, I will be saying so. But the authority to appoint or give additional jobs, it’s the sole authority of the president. Whatever he decides on, I would respect that,” Robredo said in her hometown, Naga City.
A spokesman for Duterte’s transition team, Peter Laviña, had earlier said that Robredo would have a role to play in his Cabinet.
Duterte’s running mate, losing Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, also said Duterte wanted to talk to Robredo and that he was looking at giving her a job in anti-poverty.
“I think from Day 1, he has been thinking about what [job to] give the vice president-elect,” Cayetano said.
Duterte’s reaction Saturday night was a contradiction to these claims, however.
“I’m still busy. Why would I place myself in jeopardy? Why would I put myself in an awkward position when I am not ready to offer anything to her?” he said.
In the same interview, the president-elect blasted critics for criticizing his choice of Cabinet appointees, who are mostly his province mates from Davao, friends or classmates, calling the allegations of favoritism “very stupid.”
“Look. I’m not from Forbes [Park]. If I lived there, I should have studied in Ateneo, La Salle or in UP from grade school to college—I’m not like that.”
He described himself as a probinsyano with limited “spheres of influence.”
“You do not appoint somebody you do not trust. But you also have to know the person, enough of his character and his capacity and his honesty,” Duterte said.
Duterte said that he is set to name more members to complete his Cabinet, but announced on Saturday night he already offered positions to former national treasurer Leonor Briones to head the Department of Education and Benjamin Diokno to retake his old post at the Department of Budget and Management.
Briones, professor emeritus of Public Administration at the National College of Public Administration & Governance at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, has yet to accept the offer.
Diokno, former Budget secretary in the Estrada administration, is a professor of economics at the University of the Philippines.
Briones and Diokno are expected to meet with Duterte in Davao.
Duterte said he cannot travel to Manila before the oath-taking because of prior commitments so he offered to get them tickets.
Duterte promised to name more appointees on Tuesday for the Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Land Transportation Office, Department of National Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government and Department of Science and Technology.
Duterte added that he wanted a military man to head the LTO, the DND and the BoC to “instill discipline within its ranks.”
For DoST and DoH, Duterte is eyeing someone from the career ranks while for the Tourism, he is keen on retaining Aquino Cabinet appointee Ramon Jimenez in view of his good record.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, president of the PDP-Laban under which Duterte ran for president, said the Cabinet announcements were not cast in stone.
“If they are very controversial, they may be changed before June 30,” Pimentel said in an interview with radio dzBB.
Known for working late because of his “nocturnal” habits, Duterte said he would start his working day at 1 p.m. every day.
He also confirmed he would skip his proclamation at the House of Representatives on Monday.
Duterte also denied he would be setting up a “Malacañang of the South” in Davao, saying he would be going back to his home province only to rest.
“I’m not supposed to work here. I might go home everyday, if my last flight is 9 p.m., I’m already here by 12 a.m. At least, I’m asleep by then and by 8 a.m., take off to Manila then by 9 a.m., I’ll be there [at Malacañang],” Duterte said.
His day would then start at 1 p.m. because he would be reviewing papers.
Duterte also ruled out living in Malacañang Palace, saying it was haunted by five ghosts.
Duterte earlier said he would rather sleep on a plywood cot than spend the night in the centuries-old presidential palace, which has long been the country’s seat of power.
Asked if this was one of his “outrageous” statements that media and the public should not believe, he said he was being serious.
Duterte also said he had some problems with the Presidential Security Group, which began monitoring his actions since last week.
“An official talked to me, and said, Mayor we don’t have any problem with you, being the President. But our work is mandated by law. We have to protect you, that’s our mandate under the law,” Duterte recounted.
In an interview with The Standard, incoming PSG chief Col. Rolly Bautista said “they will adjust to the preferences of the president-elect.”
“While there are already arrangements, we’re trying to make him understand our role,” he said.
In the same interview, Duterte said he would not attend his proclamation Monday.
“I have not attended any proclamation in my life,” he said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said Sunday they had extended their invitation to Duterte, saying his presence would be “a symbol that we are a working democracy.”
He said, however, that Duterte’s absence would have no legal effect on his winning the presidency. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.