DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte finally revealed the reason he had not offered any Cabinet position to Vice President-elect Leni Robredo: he does not want to hurt the feelings of defeated VP candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
In a press conference Tuesday night, May 31, in Davao City, Duterte said: “Non-committal ako diyan (I am non-committal). You know why? I don’t want to hurt the feelings of Bongbong Marcos. He is my friend. That is the political reality.”
The President-elect added: “Reconciliation need not come from an appointment [for Robredo]. There is no compelling reason for me to accommodate the VP. I am sorry. Leni must understand that she belongs to the opposite side [of the political fence].”
But later on during the press conference, asked again about the chance of a Cabinet position for Robredo, Duterte said, “Baka. She will be appointed, baka.” (Maybe she will be appointed, maybe.)
Marcos lost to Robredo in the official canvass by only 263,473 votes.
Duterte elaborated on his reasons for not considering Robredo for a Cabinet post:
- Duterte’s father served under the senator’s father, President Ferdinand Marcos: “Do you know my father [was] a Cabinet member of Marcos [senior]?”
- Duterte won the presidential election in Marcos’ home region of Ilocos, but fared poorly in Robredo’s vote-rich home region of Bicol: “I won in Ilocos. Guess where I failed miserably? Bicol…I was only number 3 or number 4.”
Although not mandatory, presidents have appointed their vice presidents to Cabinet positions:
- Corazon Aquino gave the foreign affairs portfolio to Salvador Laurel
- Fidel Ramos created an anti-crime commission for Joseph Estrada to head.
- Estrada named Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as social welfare secretary
- Arroyo appointed Noli de Castro as housing czar
- Benigno Aquino III appointed Jejomar Binay as head of the housing agency and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ affairs.
When unofficial results showed that Robredo was leading the vice presidential race, Duterte’s campaign spokesman Peter La Viña said his principal would be reserving the Cabinet positions that “she” preferred, referring to the prospective vice president in a feminine pronoun.
When the official canvassing of votes showed, however, that Robredo was indeed going to be the vice president-elect, Duterte himself had become mum on his plans for Robredo.
Robredo, for her part, has planned but not made any final schedule to pay Duterte a courtesy call in Davao City. She said she understood that he was busy entertaining those who were lining up to see him, but that she wanted to assure the President-elect of her “100% support.”
The Vice President-elect has also said she understands that Duterte would want the Cabinet positions to go to people he trusts.
In an interview with reporters in Bataan on Tuesday, Robredo talked about her plans should Duterte not assign her an agency to head.
She said she would maximize her 6 years as vice president by embarking on programs that would let her work directly with sectors. She is also looking at raising funds for the sectoral projects.
Asked if he would instead appoint Marcos Jr after the one-year ban for defeated candidates, Duterte said, “He hasn’t asked.”
During the campaign, Marcos said that if he would become vice president and be asked to choose a Cabinet post, he preferred the labor portfolio.
Duterte on Tuesday night held his first meeting with his Cabinet appointees. He also announced a fresh batch of nominees. – with reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com
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