Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo has turned down a leadership role in the decimated Liberal Party (LP) as she pledged support to President Rodrigo Duterte of the ruling PDP-Laban.
Robredo told reporters on Tuesday that she had been with the Liberals for only three years and did not have enough experience to lead the party.
“Wala naman ako sa core group ng partido although ang rules ng partido, ang mag-take ng leadership position ay ang highest elected official [I am not in the party core group although party rules state that the leadership position is taken by the highest elected official], which happens to be me,” she said.
In a television interview Monday night, Robredo said she preferred to be titular head instead, but would follow the party’s decision.
The Liberals also need to decide what role it would play in the Duterte administration, she added, after party stalwart Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay warned against a “subservient” opposition.
The LP membership in the House of Representatives has been cut by more than half to at least 45 after the defeat of standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd in the presidential elections.
Majority of the Liberals have switched to Duterte’s PDP-Laban, while a number of those remaining in the erstwhile ruling party want to be allied with the emerging new House majority coalition led by Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
When asked to recall her courtesy visit to Duterte last Monday in Malacañang, Robredo said the President was a “humble” man who stopped her from bowing to him as a sign of thanks.
“Sabi niya huwag kang magba-bow sa akin [He told me not to bow to him]. So I was telling him, ‘But you’re my boss, sir.’ Sabi niya, ‘Naku [He replied], don’t take it very seriously,’” she added.
Robredo clarified that he did not ask the President for a Cabinet position but merely exchanged notes and campaign trail experiences with Duterte during the Palace meeting.
“I told the President that with or without a Cabinet post, he can expect from me the same kind of support,” she said.
To support the Duterte administration, the Vice President plans to serve as convenor of civil society organizations involved in poverty alleviation, and coordinate with the National Anti-Poverty Commission and the Department of Social Welfare Administration to “fill the gaps” in government programs.
“Noong paalis na ako ang sabi niya [Duterte] sa akin, ‘Basta aalalayan mo ako sa trabaho [As I was leaving he (Duterte) told me, ‘Help me in my job],’” Robredo said.
“Ang sabi ko naman sa kanya, “Iiwan ko po ang number ko sa staff ninyo. Kung may gusto kayong ipagawa, tawagan na lang ako ng staff ninyo [I told him, ‘I’ll leave my number with your staff. If you want me to do something, your staff can call me],’” she added.