Speaker: No ‘oust Leni’ plot; 7 LP solons urge party to break free
MANILA — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez denied on Monday that the Duterte administration has started to push Vice President Leni Robredo out of her seat, as her resignation from the Cabinet sparked a call for the Liberal Party to break away from the House of Representatives’ supermajority.
The group of seven LP congressmen calling themselves the “Magnificent Seven bloc” on Monday urged the LP members to break away from the House of Representatives’ supermajority, after Robredo was unceremoniously pushed out of the Cabinet in a supposed bid to “steal” from her the vice presidency she narrowly won in May.
Alvarez, in an interview with reporters on Monday, said it would not make sense for President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to concentrate on ousting Robredo.
“With the huge problems our country faces, is the President really going to exert effort on that?” he said, citing the thickness of Duterte’s purported list of alleged narco-politicians as well as the moves to amend the Constitution.
But Alvarez, the secretary-general of Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), welcomed Robredo’s resignation as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) in the aftermath of Duterte’s directive for her to stop attending the Cabinet’s meetings.
“For my part, I’m praising VP Robredo because she resigned on her own, unlike others who are called on to resign,” he said, as he could not resist taking a swipe at her fellow LP member, Senator Leila de Lima.
Alvarez said it would be “too awkward” if Robredo, as an alter-ego of Duterte, would voice out her opposition “every time the President says something.”
He also said that President Duterte was being courteous enough, even if his order for Robredo to desist from attending Cabinet meetings had to be coursed through executive assistant Christopher “Bong” Go and finally relayed to her by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, Jr., through text message.
“If you no longer trust your girlfriend, break up with her. Why put up with her?” Alvarez said. “If (the Cabinet member) were male, I think the President would actually kick him out. But of course, she’s a woman, and the President was just being courteous.”
The Magnificent Seven’s members stated otherwise, with faction leader Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat calling the development “the most demeaning act in a series of affronts to the Vice President.”
Baguilat said Robredo “did well” by resigning from her position in the Cabinet, while criticizing the administration’s moves that “could only divide the Filipino people further, after a number of equally perplexing decisions.”
“The move is made more ironical [sic] by the fact that Robredo has openly called on the Filipino people to support President Duterte, although she has disagreed with some policies of the administration, which of course happens in any democracy,” Baguilat said.
He added that no administration in the past had ever banned a vice president from the Cabinet meetings even if they did not always agree.
“Perhaps it is time for the Liberal Party to rethink its position in the super coalition. If our highest party official is threatened, the party should make all efforts to protect her vice presidency and our democracy,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman echoed this call in a statement. He said that “disengaging” from the super majority would allow it to assume the role of an opposition party and “strengthen the authentic minority as an indispensable institution in a democracy.”
While Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin echoed his fellow Magnificent Seven members’ observations regarding the “oust Leni scenario” and the indications of a “highly partisan presidency,” he still described Robredo’s resignation as a “great loss.”
“Her resignation is a great loss, especially that only a few good men and women are now left serving this administration. Such is a loss for the President but a gain for the people, as she can be more with those in the margins of society,” Villarin said.
But, Alvarez was unfazed by this call. “There would be no problem,” he told reporters. SFM/rga
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