Vice President Leni Robredo has resigned from the Cabinet. Although, if you ask me, she had already stayed far too long before she finally left.
My own belief was that Robredo would stay on until she could weaponize her resignation politically, to “make a statement” out of it in the manner of the so-called Hyatt 10. She would, together with her colleagues in the Liberal Party, wait for the arrival of widespread disenchantment with the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and then she would go, thus maximizing the propaganda mileage of her resignation.
But Duterte, the provinciano mayor, would one-up the “decent” Yellows and their de facto standard-bearer once again. Through his Cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco, Duterte would order Robredo not to attend any more Cabinet meetings as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, starting yesterday.
Robredo took this directive to mean that she was being forced to resign, by text message, no less, after Evasco said he failed to reach the vice president by phone. And she declared that this was part of a larger plot to “steal” the vice presidency from her, as well.
Robredo fell into a trap Duterte had set, because I don’t think she was really being fired. I think Duterte wanted Robredo to quit on her own accord, while giving her the option of not leaving the Cabinet if that was what she really wanted, by ordering Evasco to send her the message.
Commission on Higher Education Chairman Patricia Licuanan, a Cabinet-rank holdover from the previous administration, has also been told by Evasco to stop attending Cabinet meetings. Licuanan merely said that, yes, she would no longer be attending, adding that she was staying on in her post; she hasn’t been fired yet.
As for Robredo justifying her staying on as long as she did, because she and Duterte shared a similar goal of helping the poor, that’s just a lot of cow manure. Almost from Day One of her appointment, Robredo has been declaring publicly how she disagreed with Duterte on various issues—from the so-called extrajudicial killings to the Marcos burial—differences that should have made her quit a long time ago.
Then there was the speech where Duterte made fun of Robredo’s knees and asked her about her supposed congressman-boyfriend. It took Robredo a full day to understand that she had been ridiculed in public and to react angrily—but still she didn’t quit.
The fact that she endured everything until she resigned in a huff yesterday made me think that Robredo had finally decided that she would no longer stick to the LP timetable. Never if, depending on who you talked to, she resigned too early or too late.
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The appointment of Robredo to the Cabinet was made at a time when Duterte was endeavoring to show that his was going to be an inclusive government. That was the time when he was recruiting ex-rebels from both the left and the right into his official family and restarting peace talks with various groups dedicated to bringing down the government, in a gesture of reconciliation.
But Robredo, unlike the others invited to join Duterte’s Cabinet, failed to understand that she was not brought in to become some sort of in-house critic of the administration. I’m sure Duterte never had to tell her that she should just do the job she was given and not to issue regular press releases taking the stand that was contrary to the President’s; that she failed to figure that out says something of her political acumen—or the lack of it, actually.
Robredo was left to figure out that Duterte didn’t really have to give her a job. But I guess she started to believe that her Cabinet position was an entitlement and that Duterte could not possibly fire her simply because she was the Vice President and deserving, for some reason that is not in any statute book, of her high post.
Furthermore, I think Robredo must have decided that she would resign, first verbally on Sunday and then in writing yesterday (albeit without the traditional “irrevocably” to intensify the verb “resigning”) because she was playing a little game of her own with the President. She wanted Duterte to take back his order and to say that all is forgiven.
That was not to be. Late yesterday, Malacañang declared that the President was accepting Robredo’s resignation, regretfully.
The Liberals’ designs on Robredo aside, I never understood why she accepted a job in the Duterte Cabinet in the first place, if she had no real desire to back up the President’s policies and positions—or at least to remain silent about them. Like those “solid accomplishments” that she claimed to have racked up in the last five months, this is something I fail to comprehend.
On the plus side, I think Robredo should feel liberated that she is no longer a member of the administration that she has repeatedly and consistently criticized. Now she can focus on the job of fighting the electoral protest against her, something that really needs her undivided attention.
If, as Robredo claims, there truly is a plot to steal the vice presidency from her, she must give up her Cabinet position and work full-time to keep it. Or else, she might no longer be invited to do her monthly glammed-up, glossy-magazine cover shoots—and that would be truly tragic.