PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday warned that he would soon get even with his critics as Vice President Leni Robredo vowed to lead the political opposition against the rise of extrajudicial killings in his bloody war on illegal drugs.
Duterte did not mention Robredo or her resignation as chairwoman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) in his speech Monday night, but issued a stern warning against his critics, saying he would deal with them as soon as he finished addressing the country’s pressing problems.
“We are nearing 2017. To the opposition, just wait for your time. Anyway… you’ve had your days,” the President said.
“I’ll be straightforward and continue until no Filipino is silly enough to shame us all,” he added.
On Monday, Robredo vowed to lead the opposition after quitting Duterte’s Cabinet, making her the highest-ranking official to publicly voice dissent over the President’s hardline law-and-order platform.
“This is not the time for fear. It is a time for conviction. It is a time for courage,” Robredo told reporters.
“If being an opposition leader entails that, then I will be an opposition leader,” she added.
Robredo vehemently opposed several of Duterte’s policies, including his bloody war on drugs, the lowering of the age of criminal liability, the revival of the death penalty, his disrespectful treatment of women, foreign policy, and the President’s decision to proceed with the burial of the late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Robredo also said she would be “a stronger voice” now against the political comeback of the Marcoses, notably her rival for the vice presidency during the elections earlier this year, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
She also highlighted Duterte’s drugs war, which has claimed more than 4,800 lives and led to accusations that the government is overseeing widespread extrajudicial killings.
She also vowed to speak out against plans by the Duterte administration to bring back the death penalty and lower the age of criminal responsibility to nine.
“I will oppose all policies with a stronger voice... that I think are detrimental to the Filipino people,” Robredo said.
Despite her resignation, Robredo said that she still remains supportive of the “positive” achievements of the Duterte Cabinet.
Malacañang, however, which expects Robredo to spearhead the political opposition against the President, confirmed Tuesday that the President’s order that she desist from attending Cabinet meetings was anchored on her political actions and statements which did not sit well with members of the Cabinet.
In a radio interview, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco said Robredo should have turned down a Cabinet post if she wanted to speak out her mind as a member of the opposition.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte’s order for Robredo to stop attending Cabinet meetings was meant to discipline her.
“I don’t think he was fed up with her,” Abella said in Filipino. “Maybe he just felt she needed to be disciplined.”
Duterte said he accepted Robredo’s resignation “with a heavy heart.”
Duterte’s spokesman also denied speculation that the Palace was paving the way for her ouster as vice president by Marcos.
“That’s quite a stretch,” Abella said.
The camp of former Vice President Jejomar Binay criticized Robredo for saying she was the only head of the HUDCC to attend board meetings and work weekends at home.
“Not to question Vice President Robredo’s work ethic, but it is quite unfair and self-serving of her to portray herself—after only five months in office—as the most hardworking HUDCC chair,” said Binay’s spokesperson Joey Salgado.
Binay was HUDCC chairman during most of the Aquino administration.
“I cannot speak for the other previous HUDCC chairs but perhaps she hasn’t heard of former Vice President Jejomar Binay’s work ethic,” Salgado said.
“I don’t think it’s right to step on others to set yourself up higher,” he added.
On Tuesday, the Palace reminded Commission on Higher Education Chairman Patricia Licuanan to submit her courtesy resignation, after she too was barred from attending Cabinet meetings.
“On August 22, a letter, a memorandum, a circular was given. It was asking for the courtesy resignations of presidential appointees,” Abella said.
On Monday, Licuanan assured Evasco she would follow Duterte’s order for her not to attend Cabinet meetings, but said she will not be stepping down as the chairperson of the state higher education body.
The Palace said “irreconcilable differences” had prompted the President to order Licuanan to stop attending Cabinet meetings.
Unlike Robredo, however, Licuanan has a fixed term that ends in 2018, as guaranteed by the Higher Education Modernization Act. With Joel E. Zurbano
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