It is part of tradition. Vice presidents are almost always welcome to serve in the Cabinet regardless of political affiliation.
In 1998, VP Gloria Arroyo was named to the Erap Cabinet, as secretary of the DWSD. Mr. Binay, in 2010, accepted the housing post in the Cabinet of Mr. Aquino. In the case of Mrs. Arroyo, the transition was smooth and she blended well with her colleagues in the Estrada Cabinet. She was a fully functioning Cabinet secretary up to the time the oust-Erap move escalated. The next event, Erap’s ouster from power, led her to the presidency.
Mr. Binay was not only a welcome presence in the Aquino Cabinet. Some of the major Aquino appointees, were Noy-Bi campaigners in 2010. They fully supported Mr. Aquino but junked Mr. Roxas to campaign for Mr. Binay. The Noy-Bi personalities in the Aquino Cabinet looked up to Mr. Binay as the next president. Mr. Binay had fought in the trenches during the Aquino-led efforts to remove Mr. Marcos from power and had proclaimed himself as an “Aquino loyalist.” Mr. Roxas, in contrast, was considered by many Aquino loyalists as a Johnny-come-lately.
In marked contrast, VP Leni Robredo’s appointment to the Duterte Cabinet five months ago was an afterthought. She accepted the housing post with the sense that since she and Mr. Duterte have vowed to serve a common constituency, those on the margin, she could co-exist with the other members of the Duterte Cabinet. As they say, wrong mistake. She was the only Cabinet member not sworn to Dutertismo. And she can’t survive in an environment that demands full political fealty to Mr. Duterte.
Despite the civility of her public statements, it was all too clear, she was against many of Mr. Duterte’s signature policies. The Marcos burial issue, first and foremost. After she was barred from attending Cabinet meetings, on the presumption she was an oppositionist ill-suited to hear the most passionate and top-level policy meetings on Mr. Duterte, she resigned.
Two camps breathed sighs of relief after her resignation. Her camp and Mr. Duterte’s. The resignation created no losers. Mr. Duterte can now hold Cabinet meetings without the fear that somebody with a premier seat is snooping. Ms. Robredo has two main tasks now, post Cabinet. First is to consolidate the political opposition. Then do what Cong Dadong did in 1957, after he was denied a place in the Cabinet of President Garcia. Cong Dadong used the four years to really study issues and organize across the archipelago for a presidential run.
The opposition is a pile of rubble. It needs a leader
Mr. Duterte’s victory reduced the political opposition to ruins. The feckless Mr. Aquino was so preoccupied with growth rates and credit upgrades that he forgot one basic thing: that he was a politician with an obligation to strengthen the Liberal Party, the party of his father, of Jovy Salonga and many others, then nurture a new generation of LP leaders.
Mr. Aquino failed to do both. His credit upgrades and growth rates are now a distant memory. What is in the national consciousness now is a prostrate LP. Reduced to a pile of rubble by Mr. Aquino.
Ms. Robredo’s most urgent task is to start the excruciating process of resurrecting the LP. It cannot be that the party of Ninoy and the party of Jovy Salonga has to rely on Caloocan City’s Edgar Erice for ideological rigor and discipline. She has to develop the leadership potentials of Teddy Baguilat and company.
There is a quartet of reliable senators who can give their backs to Ms. Robredo’s organizing efforts: Aquino, Drilon, de Lima and Pangilinan.
There are many elected leaders who are just waiting for the LP to get its spine and function as a genuine opposition party. Once that happens, they will join.
Do a Cong Dadong
Cong Dadong was the only name we from Lubao, Pampanga called the late former President Diosdado Pangan Macapagal. After his election to the vice presidency in 1957, then President Garcia refused to give him a Cabinet post. He would have been an ideal DFA secretary. Before politics, Cong Dadong was in the foreign service and held the 4th highest job at the DFA. All the complex foreign affairs issues, from RP-US relations to the Sabah question, were studied in-depth by Cong Dadong during his tenure at the DFA.
Still, Mr. Garcia opted to lay that special talent to waste. At that low moment, Cong Dadong saw an opportunity, move across the archipelago to introduce himself and his vision for the country. In the 1961 presidential elections, Cong Dadong clobbered Mr. Garcia. Presidents were allowed two terms of four years each, then.
Ms. Robredo can do the same, do a tour of the archipelago starting early 2017. She will get rewards from the realm of the personal. She will fully know the pains and the hopes of ordinary Filipinos. From the realm of the political, she can start building a network of supporters for her presidential run. (Don’t be coy, Mam. There is nothing wrong about running for president.)
She need not worry about the funding. There are legions of well-meaning and conscientious citizens – some rich, some average some even poor – who will chip in to make that tour possible.
Just one piece of advice, Mam. You have to have personal gravitas. Drop the “never akong nandaya” verbiage. Toughen up. It will be one long, lonely fight ahead.