Cabinet post awaits Robredo
DAVAO CITY—Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, the winner of the vice presidential election, will get a Cabinet job in the administration of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, the Davao City mayor’s running mate, said on Saturday.
Cayetano, who lost the vice presidential election to Aquino administration candidate Robredo, said Duterte, from the time it became clear that he would govern, had been considering what job to give to whoever would be elected Vice President.
Duterte, chair of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), and Robredo, a candidate of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), emerged as the winners of the presidential and vice presidential races after Congress completed the official count of the votes for the top two offices at stake in the May 9 elections on Friday night.
Duterte polled 16,601,997 votes, beating his closest rival, LP standard-bearer Mar Roxas, by 6,623,822 votes.
Robredo got 14,418,817 votes, defeating her closest opponent, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., by 263,473 votes.
A joint session of Congress will proclaim them as President-elect and Vice President-elect after approving the report of the joint canvassing committee on Monday.
Job for VP
“Mayor Duterte is reviewing every day names and positions [in the Cabinet], and I think from Day 1 he has been thinking about what [job can] be given the Vice President-elect,” Cayetano said.
He said the position to be given to Robredo, Roxas’ running mate, would be “tailored to what we heard from her during the campaign that she would like to handle.”
“Based on his (Duterte’s) earlier statements, she’s welcome and that he will give a job to everyone who wants to work with him. Based on that, hopefully those in Congress from the Liberal Party will take a cooperation mode,” Cayetano said.
He said Duterte and Robredo were supposed to meet last week, but the mayor’s camp thought “it would be wiser [to do it] after they have been officially proclaimed.”
“I’ll see him today and take it up with him if both camps want to meet. But the transition team is functioning perfectly,” said Cayetano, who arrived in Davao on Friday for a meeting with Duterte.
Duterte’s camp expressed openness to having Robredo in the Cabinet as she emerged as the possible winner in the vice presidential race during the unofficial count of the votes by the election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.
Asked in his most recent press conference what job he would give to Robredo in his administration, Duterte replied: “What would be a nice-sounding job?”
The Vice President has traditionally been appointed to a Cabinet post: Salvador Laurel was the late President Corazon Aquino’s foreign secretary; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the social welfare secretary of President Joseph Estrada; Noli de Castro was the housing and urban development czar in the Arroyo administration, similar to the job held by Vice President Jejomar Binay in the administration of President Aquino before he broke away in June last year to become leader of the opposition.
Only Estrada was not given a Cabinet post among Vice Presidents elected since the restoration of democracy in 1986. He was, however, appointed chair of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission by President Fidel Ramos in 1992.
Duterte has filled executive positions in his incoming administration with former classmates and fraternity brothers, longtime associates and even former officials, but still has a long way to go in completing his Cabinet.
Among the positions still unfilled are critical portfolios such as education, environment, defense, health, budget, trade, interior and local government, tourism, science and technology, social welfare and development and agrarian reform, along with a long list of presidential commissions and advisory posts.
Duterte is said to be considering nominees from the Left to the social welfare and agrarian reform posts, but there has been no firm decision yet.
Work for the poor
Robredo, a lawyer and the widow of former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, promised during the campaign that if elected, she would help raise the lot of Filipinos living “in the fringes of society.”
“I heard that she’s willing to work with the mayor,” Cayetano said.
“I heard that she wants to coordinate propoor programs, to remove antipoor barriers. So I don’t know if that goes for a new officer or something like an upgraded NAPC (National Anti-Poverty Commission),” he said.
“It will depend on her forte. It is the President’s call. I will not suggest unless asked,” he said.
Robredo on Saturday said Duterte could count on her, stressing that her full cooperation with his administration was part of her “obligation” to the Filipino people.
“I think it’s just appropriate that I assure him that he has my 100-percent support and cooperation,” Robredo told reporters in Naga City.
She said, however, that she would not ask Duterte for a Cabinet post.
“If I will be asked about my preference, I will give my answer. Whatever will be his decision, I will respect it,” she said.
Poised and articulate, firm but mild-mannered, Robredo stands in stark contrast to the rugged, trash-talking, irreverent Duterte.
A junior member of the House of Representatives, Robredo was relatively unknown when she decided to accept the LP’s offer to be Roxas’ vice presidential running mate last year.
But she worked hard to convince the voters to support her, and they appreciated her “genuine message,” Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino, Robredo’s campaign manager, said in a statement on Saturday.
Aquino said Robredo inspired her campaign team to “do better, work harder, and [be real]” in delivering her message to “the last, the least and the lost in our society.”
‘Cinderella of PH politics’
“We ran a true people’s campaign that though diverse and multifaceted, marched in unison toward clear and set periodic objectives that eventually [ended] up in victory,” he said.
Duterte’s chosen presidential spokesperson, lawyer Salvador Panelo, congratulated Robredo for winning the vice presidential race, calling her a “Cinderella of Philippine politics” who is “welcome to the Cabinet” of the incoming President.
“She’s a fresh wind in the suffocating air,” Panelo said at a news forum in Quezon City on Saturday, citing Robredo’s pledge to support Duterte 100 percent despite being a member of a different political party.
Asked about Robredo’s campaign promise of opposing Duterte’s proposal for the revival of the death penalty, Panelo said: “She said 100-percent (support), so she should internalize that. If it’s 100 percent, there’s no space to disagree.”
He added: “If the administration’s policy is in favor of the death penalty, Leni, as Vice President, should respect the policy of the Chief Executive. When you’re a member of the Cabinet, you have to follow. Otherwise, you should resign.” With reports from Marlon Ramos, Leila B. Salaverria and Erika Sauler/TVJ
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