Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo on Sunday resigned as Housing secretary, claiming she was barred from attending Cabinet meetings starting today and that this was an indication of a Palace plot to unseat her.
In a statement, Robredo, head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), said Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. had informed her not to show up at Cabinet meetings starting December 5.
“We received a text message last Saturday from Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco Jr., relaying the President’s instruction through [presidential aide]Bong Go for me ‘to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings starting this Monday, December 5.’ This is the last straw, because it makes it impossible for me to perform my duties,” Robredo said.
“Hence, I am tendering my resignation from the Cabinet on Monday, December 5, 2016. With this resignation, you can expect that I will continue to support the positive initiatives of this administration and oppose those that are inimical to the people’s interest,” Robredo added.
“However, as your duly elected Vice President, I will not allow the Vice Presidency to be stolen. I will not allow the will of the people to be thwarted.”
Obstacles in HUDCC
Robredo, who was given the HUDCC portfolio in July, said she had been warned about plots to “steal” the vice presidency from her, but added she had ignored them and buckled down to work.
“We had hoped this day would not come. I had been warned of a plot to steal the Vice Presidency. I have chosen to ignore this and focus on the job at hand. But the events of recent days indicate that this plot is now being set into motion,” she said.
Former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., whom Robredo defeated for the No. 2 post, has a pending electoral protest alleging massive cheating in the May elections.
Robredo pointed out that from the beginning of the administration, she and President Duterte had major differences, but they managed to worked together.
“Since I assumed office, I have been consistent in my opposition to issues such as the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, extra-judicial killings, reinstating death penalty, lowering the age of criminal liability, and sexual attacks against women. But we both had a mandate to serve the people. I had hoped that this shared commitment to the poor and marginalized would transcend the differences between us. So, I took the job of Housing Secretary when it was offered to me,” she added.
Robredo said that in barely five months, she made a number of accomplishments in HUDCC despite certain obstacles. “One, the budget for all key shelter agencies in 2017 has been slashed by more than P19 billion. Two, all our key shelter agency appointment recommendations have not been acted on. Three, the executive order designed to make HUDCC effective was not signed,” she said.
Evasco confirmed that President Duterte wanted Robredo banned in Cabinet meetings, citing irreconcilable differences.
Utos ni Pangulong Duterte [It was the President’s order]. If they cannot support what the President is doing, then they have to resign,” Evasco said over radio station DZMM.
Evasco, however, said the President did not ask for Robredo’s resignation.
“There were no instructions for VP Robredo’s termination. I tried to call her, but there was no response,” Evasco said.
Regarding the alleged plot to unseat her from the vice presidency, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said: “If there is a plot, that plot did not come from the camp of the president.”
“Tomorrow, let us see if the president actually accepts her resignation [from the Cabinet],” he added.
‘Writings on the wall’
Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat, a member of the Liberal Party where Robredo is a titular head, said the writings were all over the wall – Duterte wanted Robredo out of his Cabinet.
“It’s only right for her to quit the Cabinet because she’s no longer welcome in Malacañang. Preventing her from attending Cabinet meetings is already equal to asking her to resign,” Baguilat said.
Baguilat called on his party-mates to stand with Robredo in securing the vice presidency.
“The LP must now unite and make a party decision to protect her vice presidency, meaning the LP should break away from the majority coalition. It is an affront to our leadership,” Baguilat said, referring to the majority coalitions in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Another LP lawmaker, Rep. Arlene Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, shared Baguilat’s sentiments.
“She was the last woman standing in the elections, but she is the first to truly fight for what is just and what is right in the Executive branch,” Bag-ao said in a statement.
“I have faith in what she said that at the end of the day, the good ones will prevail,” Bag-ao added.
WITH FRANCIS EARL CUETO AND AFP