MANILA, Philippines – Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the resignation of Vice President Leni Robredo from the Cabinet is not surprising at all, given the latter’s political differences with President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The resignation was inevitable because of their divergence on so many important issues,” said Arroyo, now Pampanga 2nd District representative, in a press conference on Monday, December 5.
The Vice President has been opposing some of the major thrusts and decisions of the President, including the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, extrajudicial killings, reimposition of the death penalty, and lowering the age of criminal liability.
During the press conference, Arroyo recalled the time she was the vice president under former President Joseph Estrada and served as his social welfare secretary.
“And when I was vice president, as long as I was a member of the Cabinet under Estrada, I resisted from making any critical remarks about him. And when I can no longer avoid that, then I tendered my resignation,” said Arroyo, who resigned from the Cabinet in 2001 following allegations that Estrada had pocketed jueteng payoffs.
Arroyo, who became president from 2001 to 2010, also reasoned that political differences are an acceptable reason for a president to cut ties with his or her Cabinet member.
“Then I became president and I had my own issues, well I had my own divergence of issues with some Cabinet members. So as president, if you have a Cabinet member who has a difference in important issues with you, then you have to let the Cabinet member go, no matter what your personal respect is or affection for the Cabinet member,” said Arroyo.
She also shrugged off criticism being hurled at Duterte for giving Robredo the order to stop attending Cabinet meetings through text message.
Arroyo said a similar thing was done during her time to “a senior official, chairman of the board,” though she refused to say who.
“Again speaking as a former president, one of my officials was also booted out through text. It’s been done before,” she said.
'No plot' to oust Robredo
In her resignation announcement, Robredo also said that she had long been "warned of a plot to steal the Vice Presidency.”
Robredo is currently facing an electoral protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, who is close to Duterte.
Arroyo, however, said Robredo’s resignation from the Cabinet should not be connected to rumors that a plan to oust her is in the works.
“You look for a deeper explanation if the face value explanation is not credible. But political differences between a president and Cabinet member is an obvious explanation," she said.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez also denies any plans to remove Robredo as vice president.
“There is no such plot. What I know is that there is a pending case against her before the PET (Presidential Electoral Tribunal). Siya lang ang nakakaalam kung nanganganib siya pag nag-recount. (She's the only one who can tell if she'll be put in danger in the event of a recount.) Otherwise, there is nothing to worry,” said Alvarez in a text message to Rappler.
He also believes that Robredo did not resign but that she was "fired" by the President.
"Considering the situation, I think she is FIRED!" he said.
For Alvarez, Robredo’s resignation will not be affecting the way the Duterte administration governs Filipinos.
“She’s still the VP. It is too presumptuous to say that her resignation will affect the Filipinos,” said Alvarez.
ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio shared the same sentiments, saying there is “no fundamental differences” between the social and economic policies of Duterte and Robredo.
“Sa maikling panahon ni Vice President Robredo sa housing, housing portfolio, pinagpatuloy lang essentially ‘yung privatization framework thrust ng gobyerno sa housing, as in other social services. So walang fundamental na pagbabago,” said Tinio.
(In the short time of Vice President Robredo in housing, she essentially continued the privatization framework thrust of the government, as in other social services. So no fundamental changes.)
Still, he said the resignation only indicates a growing rift inside the Duterte Cabinet.
“Tingnan natin ‘yung resignation ay nagpapakita lang na tumitindi na conflict sa loob ng Gabinete at sa pagitan ng magkakaibang paksyon. Alam natin si VP Robredo, kabilang siya sa core ng LP (Liberal Party) nung nakaraang administration," said Tinio.
(The resignation only shows a worsening conflict inside the Cabinet and among different factions. We know that VP Robredo is part of the core of LP, the party of the past administration.)
At the House of Representatives, 27 congressmen from the Liberal Party signed a coalition agreement with Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan. Only 5 LP lawmakers chose to join the independent minority bloc. – Rappler.com