Vice President Leni Robredo is not the first Vice President deprived, so far, of a Cabinet post.
She shares the fate of former Vice President Diosdado Macapagal, who would later become president.
The book titled So Help Us God, authored by brothers J. Eduardo and Jonathan Malaya, chronicled Macapagal’s rise to the presidency, thanks largely to his crisscrossing across the country, touching base with people from the countryside when he was vice president from 1957 to 1961 with no Cabinet post—a journey that Robredo has vowed to pursue in the next six years.
Macapagal, the Poor Boy from Lubao, who had to work part-time and needed the help of Secretary of Interior Honorio Ventura to finish college at the University of the Philippines and get a law degree at the University of Santo Tomas, won the vice presidential race in the 1957 elections after an impressive stint in Congress as a Pampanga Representative where he pushed Minimum Wage Law, Rural Bank Law, Rural Health Law, among others.
The presidency, however, was won by Carlos Garcia, a member of LP’s rival political party, the Nacionalista.
“As the first ever Vice President from a rival party, Macapagal was not given a Cabinet portfolio by Garcia. He was offered one on the condition that he switch allegiance to the ruling Nacionalistas,” the book’s chapter 10 entitled “New Era for the Common Man,” said of Macapagal.
The same chapter revealed that Macapagal did not agree to being a political turncoat. Instead, he “played the role of critic of the administration’s policies and performance; rebuilt the Liberal Party and used his spare time getting further acquainted with voters during his visits to the countryside.”
Duterte has refused to name Robredo to a Cabinet post because he does not want to hurt the feelings of his friend, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., who lost the vice presidential race to Robredo by 263,473 votes.
But just like Macapagal, Robredo is looking to turn the situation into something positive.
She committed to spend her first 100 days visiting the poorest areas in the countryside for consultations on how the Office of the Vice President can help them.
Robredo also wants to hold consultations and forge partnerships with the public and private sector to fund initiatives for the benefit of the poor and rural development.
During the campaign, Robredo often said that she knows how to be alleviate the plight of the people in the fringes of the society, being a former lawyer for the fisherfolk, farmers and battered wives prior to her political career.
She dwelled on how to implement this vision during her inaugural address.
“This is a dream come true for someone like me who hold consultation meetings on train tracks, sleep on boats, and ride single-motor version of tricycles called habal-habal to reach those we need to serve,” Robredo said in her inaugural speech.
“We seek to unite the government and the private sector in a partnership for change…for those at the fringes of society that we have vowed to serve. In our world today, our most important work are the things that we can do together. Collaboration is today’s most important and powerful resource,” she added.
For UST’s Political Science Professor Edmund Tayao, there is a legitimate possibility of Robredo duplicating Macapagal’s success, including Macapagal’s rise to the presidency.
“Anything is possible. I don’t see her being much of a traditional politician who will criticize just to get brownie points,” Tayao told The Manila Times in a text message.
“It depends significantly how things will be in the next two or three years. If there will be any effort to discredit the President, I’m sure it’ll happen only in the 2nd year,” Tayao added.