There was no immediate reaction on Monday from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the country’s Vice President saying she will resign her Cabinet post citing “major differences in principles and values” with Duterte and an unspecified plot to remove her from the Vice Presidency. Leni Robredo, a human rights lawyer and respected political newcomer, said in a statement on Sunday that she will resign as Housing Secretary, an appointment made by Duterte, but will stay on in her elected post as Vice President. She was set to hold a news conference later Monday.
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In the Philippines, Presidents and Vice Presidents are separately elected and often come from rival political parties, like Duterte and Robredo. “I will not allow the Vice Presidency to be stolen. I will not allow the will of the people to be thwarted,” Robredo said without elaborating. “I will continue to serve the Filipino family and fulfill their dream for a better life.”
The head of the government’s Commission on Higher Education, Patricia Licuanan, said she learned through a text message that Duterte had also banned her from attending Cabinet meetings but said she would stay on in her post. There was no immediate comment from Duterte on Monday.
Robredo’s resignation comes amid a political storm over Duterte’s decision to allow the burial of long-dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the country’s Heroes’ Cemetery and a bloody crackdown against illegal drugs that has alarmed Western governments and human rights watchdogs.
Robredo is the second official to resign from Duterte’s administration in less than a week. Maria Serena Diokno quit as head of the government’s Hstorical Commission on Tuesday to protest Duterte’s decision to allow Marcos’ reburial in the cemetery. Diokno has since then joined street protests by anti-Marcos groups condemning the secretive November 18 burial.
Robredo cited her opposition to the burial, the drug killings, Duterte’s plan to reimpose the death penalty and “sexual attacks against women” among the issues on which she differed with Duterte, who took office on June 30. The last straw, she said, was when she was notified Saturday by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. through a text message about the President’s order for Robredo “to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings” starting Monday.
Evasco said Duterte decided to bar her from Cabinet meetings because of her “irreconcilable differences” with the Duterte administration. Duterte’s move, Robredo said, made it impossible for her to do her work, adding that she has also faced budget cutbacks and other obstacles.
Robredo, 52, did not provide details about the alleged plot to remove her from the Vice Presidency, but her electoral victory has been questioned by her closest rival in the race, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., a son of the late dictator. Marcos Jr. lost by a slim margin to Robredo, the widow of a popular politician who built a name as an honest, hands-on provincial mayor who wore slippers to work and reached out to the poor in the countryside.
Robredo’s husband died in a plane crash in 2012, and she later acceded to widespread calls for her to enter politics. Robredo said she has chosen to ignore warnings “of a plot to steal the vice presidency” and instead tried to focus on her work. “But the events of recent days indicate that this plot is now being set into motion,” Robredo said, adding that she will continue to support the positive actions of Duterte’s administration “and oppose those that are inimical to the people’s interest.”