Lead political opposition, lawmakers urge Robredo
Vice President Leni Robredo on Monday appeared to be emerging as the leader of the political opposition as the so-called Magnificent Seven bloc urged Liberal Party (LP) members to break away from the majority in the House of Representatives and rally around Robredo, who resigned from the Cabinet.
Robredo resigned as chief of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) on Monday after President Duterte ordered her barred from Cabinet meetings, along with the chair of the Commission on Higher Education, Patricia Licuanan.
Malacañang cited “irreconcilable differences” as reason for excluding Robredo and Licuanan from Cabinet meetings.
Robredo had openly criticized the President’s brutal war on illegal drugs, his decision to allow the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani, and resisted his crude remarks about her, including ogling her knees during Cabinet meetings.
‘Most demeaning act’
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, leader of the Magnificent Seven bloc, said in a statement that Robredo’s being unceremoniously pushed out of the Cabinet was “the most demeaning act in a series of affronts to the Vice President.”
Baguilat said no administration in the past had banned a Vice President from Cabinet meetings even if the second-highest official disagreed with the President.
“Perhaps it is time for the Liberal Party to rethink its position in the supercoalition. If our highest party official is threatened, the party should make all efforts to protect her vice presidency and our democracy,” he said.
Robredo’s breakaway from the Duterte administration had cleared the path for her to become the new opposition leader, Baguilat said.
“Eventually, that’s where it is headed because she’s the most high-profile [official to] quit from the Duterte Cabinet and she has been consistent in criticizing the President on many issues,” he said.
The LP’s decision on its status in the House would be critical to Robredo’s role as the opposition’s leader, Baguilat said.
“If the LP leaves the supercoalition, then definitely it would be Leni,” he said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a member of the bloc, said disengaging from the majority would enable the LP to assume the role of opposition party and “strengthen the authentic minority as an indispensable institution in a democracy.”
He said Robredo could be the opposition leader even if she supported administration policies that the LP agreed with.
Akbayan Rep. Tomasito Villarin, also a member of the bloc, said the ouster of Robredo from the Cabinet indicated a “highly partisan” presidency.
He described Robredo’s resignation as “great loss” to the administration.
“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.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Mr. Duterte’s right-hand man in the House, was not worried about the LP’s withdrawal from the majority coalition. “There would be no problem,” he said.
Former Negros Gov. Rafael Coscolluela, LP chair in the province, said Robredo’s resignation was “sad but inevitable.”
“The Vice President will just have to find other ways to serve the country, in partnership with civil society, and the private sector. I am behind her 100 percent,” Coscolluela said.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., a member of Mr. Duterte’s PDP-Laban party, said he was saddened by Robredo’s resignation, but called for respect for the Vice President’s decision.
“Let us wish her well as she vows to continue and focus on efforts to advance and uplift the lives of the less fortunate,” Marañon said.
‘Unite behind VP’
In the Bicol region, where Robredo comes from, Archbishop of Caceres Rolando Tria Tirona asked the people to unite behind the Vice President.
“I salute (the Vice President) for her courage and I express to her my solidarity, my prayers and my support. My priests and many people in the Bicol region are also supporting her,” Tirona said.
Johann de la Rosa, executive director of the Naga City People’s Council, said his group was saddened by Robredo’s resignation.
He cited Robredo’s work in cutting red tape in the development of government housing projects.
In Zamboanga City, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar said Robredo’s resignation would not affect the housing project for families displaced by fighting between government forces and Moro rebels in 2013. —WITH REPORTS FROM CARLA P. GOMEZ, JUAN ESCANDOR JR. AND JULIE S. ALIPALA
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