Mindful that a special pain is reserved for those who oppress widows and orphans, I wanted to be as deferential as possible to the eminent widow, Vice President Leni Robredo, who had just lost her Cabinet post as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
Rightly or wrongly, she is the pride of many dear friends in my home region, and I would like to honor that as a fellow Bicolano. Her late husband Jesse was a good friend and a loyal political supporter when I was in the Batasan, the Cabinet and the Senate. I knew him as a good man, a hard-working city mayor, who deserved much better treatment from then President B.S. Aquino 3rd who made him Secretary of the Interior and Local governments.
But Leni needs to comport herself with greater dignity and self-worth now, after her awful sacking from the Cabinet. She did not deserve the rough treatment she got, but she cannot change the fact that she was fired, unceremoniously. She wrote DU30 a superfluous letter of resignation to make it appear she was quitting of her own volition, but the incontrovertible fact is that she was sacked through Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., who told her DU30 did not want to see her in his Cabinet meetings anymore. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar supplemented it by saying DU30 had lost all trust in her.
What Leni should say and not say
Given all that, it is not good for her to be saying, “I would have wanted to stay.” Or that, she and DU30 should act “like two parents of a family.” They are not, and have never been a family. They don’t even share the same family values. Critics say she supports state contraception and possibly abortion; nobody knows what DU30 supports. But this is not the point at issue.
The point is, the Vice President does not have a right to any Cabinet appointment. Even if the VP belonged to the President’s political party, he or she cannot presume to be entitled to a Cabinet seat. The language of the Consitution is clear: “The Vice-President may be appointed as a Member of the Cabinet. Such appointment requires no confirmation.”
The decision belongs entirely to the President. An appointment is unimaginable when the Vice-President comes from outside the President’s party, like Robredo. Diosdado Macapagal spent his entire vice-presidency attending town fiestas and campaigning for the next election because then-President Carlos P. Garcia refused to give him any official duties. An appointment becomes even more unimaginable when the Vice-President’s election is protested by the President’s team mate or ally, like Robredo’s.
What happened to Vice President Jejomar C. Binay in 2010 was rather exceptional. PNoy made him HUDCC head despite the fact that he belonged to the opposing party, and his election was protested by PNoy’s own losing team mate, Mar Roxas. Binay’s long close personal relationship with the Aquinos, beginning with Cory Aquino, who first appointed him mayor of Makati in 1986, overturned all party considerations.
In the case of Robredo, no such close relationship exists between her and DU30; she personally lobbied for her appointment, appealing to his personal weakness. She got what she wanted, but lost it quickly after a few months, apparently because of suspicions that she was part of a Liberal Party plot to oust DU30 from the presidency.
The reported plot to install Leni
According to this theory, the LP, which bankrolled her campaign and conducted the special operations that allowed her to overtake her closest rival, former Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., during the final counting of votes, was plotting to oust DU30 and put her in his place. The alleged plot first surfaced during the campaign when LP operatives decided DU30 had become unbeatable, and the only way for them to get the presidency would be to concentrate on the vice presidency, and then work for DU30’s ouster after he won the presidency.
The first part of this plan was realized when, after consistently trailing Marcos by close to a million votes, Robredo suddenly overtook him by a couple of hundred thousand votes and was proclaimed vice-president-elect. But the ouster plan had to be put on hold because of DU30’s incredible popularity despite his summary drug killings, his brusque manners and highly vulgar and offensive language.
The Marcos burial as trigger
However, alarm bells were triggered when, despite the LP’s, the Left’s and Robredo’s objections, Duterte authorized the burial of Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Although the State did not bury Marcos as a hero, the public outcry from his enemies was that he had been given a hero’s burial, even though he was no hero. The burial brought together the communists and their supporters whose armed rebellion Marcos had tried to crush with his martial law proclamation in 1972, the Aquino family whose political animosity towards Marcos started with the late former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and had become legendary, and Leni Robredo, who feared that the nine Supreme Court justices who had ruled in favor of the burial could rule next in favor of Marcos’s electoral protest.
They apparently feared that the legal effort to resolve the Marcos protest, through a correct recount, could outpace any effort to have Robredo replace DU30. So they embarked on a massive mobilization effort not only to attack Marcos but above all to intimidate the SC, in its capacity as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), into not acting on the protest. For them the greatest threat to the nation was not the threat posed by DU30’s coalition government with the NDF and Evasco’s Kilusang Pagbabago, but Marcos Jr. becoming DU30’s vice president through an accurate recount ot the votes last May.
This is why there seemed to be effusive celebration within the anti-Marcos camp when DU30 said Robredo “will finish her term,” as though he was in control of the PET process and of human life itself. To this, Robredo responded, “Rody will finish his term, too.” Despite all this, the effort to promote Robredo as DU30’s successor, should he suddenly exit for health or other reasons, continues. It appeared to get a boost from DU30’s latest admissions of his various health problems at the Wallace Business Forum on Monday.
The problem is Leni, more than DU30
Indeed, if Robredo is confirmed by the PET as Vice President, the President could go anytime and there should be no concern about her succeeding DU30. That’s what the Constitution says and we should follow what the Constitution says. The trouble, though, is that far too many people seem to believe she did not win the last election, and yet there seems to be a determined effort on the part of her supporters to fast-track the succession process before the PET could resolve the electoral issue.
This creates major concerns about constitutional legitimacy. The question does not arise with respect to DU30, but it is the first issue raised against Robredo. DU30 has been in office for less than six months, and is now travelling to his 11th foreign destination as head of state. But more and more people are saying they will not mind saying goodbye to him at this time, in favor of a less caustic and more predictable president. The question though is, will they be prepared to welcome Leni?
This is where the country seems to be right now. To many critics DU30 is proving to be no better than Aquino, whom they used to call “the worst president we ever had.” But the potential alternative to DU30 does not promise to be any improvement either. What do we do, and where do we go from here? Let’s talk more about this later.
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In Memoriam. Bishop Javier Ecchevaria, Prelate of Opus Dei, and second successor to Saint Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, (after Blessed Alvaro del Portillo), was called to his eternal rest on the Feast-Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rome at the age of 84, after long years of faithful service to the Church. He had visited the Philippines once, where he met many members of the prelature, popularly known as the Work. Father Carlos Estrada, Regional Vicar of Opus Dei in the Philippines, will celebrate a Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao at 5:30 pm tomorrow (Thursday). Please remember him in your prayers. Thank you very much.