First week as VP: How things turned around for Leni Robredo

Patty Pasion
Vice President Leni Robredo starts her week with a first-time informal chat with President Rodrigo Duterte in Camp Aguinaldo. By the end of the week, she becomes part of his Cabinet.

FIRST DAY, FIRST MEETING. President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo meet for the first time in Camp Aguinaldo on July 1, 2016. Photo from the Office of the Vice President

CAVITE, Philippines – She did not have a Cabinet portfolio right away like her predecessors, but Vice President Leni Robredo hit the ground running during her first week in office.

Robredo went around the country for several speaking engagements, discussing her plans and hopes for the new administration, which she vowed to fully support. (READ: Robredo: ‘No. 1 responsibility’ to support Duterte admin)

Her first-week schedule reflected her advocacies: a visit to a home for the elderly and for persons with disabilities in Manila, and a keynote address at the convention of the Philippine Association of Nutrition, Incorporated and Philippine Society of Nutritionist-Dieticians, Incorporated. As a lawmaker, Robredo filed the National Food Security Bill that aims to curb hunger and child malnutrition.

VISIT TO THE ELDERLY. Vice President Leni Robredo chats with the elderly at the Missionaries of the Poor in San Andres Bukid, Manila on July 6, 2016. Photo from the Office of the Vice President

HIGH FIVE. Vice President Leni Robredo visits the elderly and PWD home of the Missionaries of the Poor in San Andres Bukid on July 6, 2016. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Vice President

SUPPORT FOR PH ART. Vice President Leni Robredo shows her support for Filipino artists at the opening of the Artists Hands Exhibit at Solaire Casino on July 6, 2016. Photo from the Office of the Vice President

LANAO DEL SUR VISIT. Vice President Leni Robredo with Imelda Dimaporo after meeting with the elected officials of the province on July 7, 2016. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

Outside Manila, Robredo joined the people of Lanao del Sur in celebrating “Araw ng Lanao” and the end of Ramadan. Lanao del Sur is among the provinces in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that delivered big time for the Liberal Party candidate during the elections.

Robredo got 51.5% of the votes there – 130,486 versus her toughest rival, then Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, who got 46,854 votes.

Courtesy visit

Week 1 would have all been about her ceremonial functions as the country’s second top official. But thanks to the new president’s upredictability, she would be in for a surprise on Day 7 of her vice presidency.

This could be traced back to her first full day in office – July 1 – when she was invited to the turnover ceremony of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to be keynoted by the President.

It was their first meeting since they won the elections, which turned out much better than Robredo had anticipated. Duterte had earlier said that he was not inclined to give Robredo a Cabinet position as they were from opposite sides of the political fence and he had to consider the feelings of Bongbong Marcos, his friend.

The cordial meeting paved the way for Robredo’s courtesy call on Duterte in Malacañang, where the Philippine leaders had a chance to warm up to each other.

CORDIAL MEETING. President Rodrigo R. Duterte welcomes Vice President Leni Robredo during a courtesy call in Malacanang on July 4, 2016. Photo by Exequiel Supera/PPD

COME BY OFTEN. President Rodrigo Duterte tells Vice President Leni Robredo that she should come to Malacañang often since she's part of the administration on JUly 4, 2016. Photo by Leni Robredo Media Bureau

The best indication that the President and Vice President were off to a good start was Duterte’s invitiation to Robredo to visit the Palace more often because she is a part of the administration. He even sought her help in running the country.

The big reveal

Little did Robredo know that a few days later, the President would offer her a Cabinet position the Duterte way – unexpected and very casual.

In a taped interview with PTV4 later aired on the station, Duterte was asked about a position for Robredo. This was said to be a question sent in by the Malacañang Press Corps. In response, he called Robredo. He offered her the position of housing chief on the spot. (READ: Hello, Leni? How Duterte made the Cabinet offer to VP Robredo)


Robredo readily accepted the position to chair the Housing and Urban Dvelopment Coordinating Council (HUDCC),  previously led by her two immediate predecessors, former vice president Jejomar Binay and Noli de Castro.

Robredo said that she was happy with the task given to her, saying public housing “is an issue very close to my heart.” The HUDCC is among the anti-poverty agencies of the government.

As she embarked on her second week in office, she met with HUDCC officials who briefed her on the work ahead. Based on the documents she has reviewed, there is a backlog of 1.4 million homes which she wants to resolve in the next 6 years. – 

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.