Evasco: Duterte demanded respect from Robredo

Pia Ranada
Evasco: Duterte demanded respect from Robredo
(UPDATED) 'If you are a member of the Cabinet, you should respect the presiding officer who happens to be the President,' says Cabinet Secretary Leoncio 'Jun' Evasco Jr

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte demanded respect from Vice President Leni Robredo when he barred her from attending Cabinet meetings, a senior Palace official said on Tuesday, December 6.

In an interview on radio dzRH on Tuesday, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco Jr said Cabinet members are expected to “respect” their appointing authority, particularly the latter’s policies.

“When you are appointed as a member of the Cabinet of any administration, meaning to say that, you participate in the deliberation of issues/programs that have something to do for the betterment of our people. Now, if you are a member of the Cabinet, you should respect the presiding officer who happens to be the President,” he said.

“You cannot just participate in the deliberation and then when you get out, you criticize. If you would want to maintain your being a fiscalizer, then might as well not join the administration Cabinet. So, I am not saying that there was something wrong, but I think it’s just a matter of respect from the Vice President,” Evasco added.

Evasco had relayed the President’s message – as ordered by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go – to Robredo through a text message. (READ: How did Duterte break with Robredo? Through text message)

Robredo had strongly opposed the hero’s burial for dictator Ferdinand Marcos since the campaign period, a position she repeatedly reiterated when she was already a member of the Duterte Cabinet.

She had also spoken up on the spate of killings linked to the administration’s war on drugs, against the proposed measure to restore the death penalty, and on the President’s “tasteless” remark about her “smooth knees” at an event commemorating Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) – which Duterte had justified as his way of making people laugh

Inconsistency

It was Robredo’s public expressions of dissent on administration policies that prompted Duterte to issue the directive, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a chance interview with reporters in Malacañang.

“You can hold your private opinions about that but I think your public expression should be consistent with the administration policy,” he said.

Abella said that in the end, Duterte found the need to “make a decision” on the Vice President.

“Hindi naman siguro napuno, dumating lang siguro na kailangan lang desisyunan (I guess he was not really fed up but it probably came to a point where he needed to make a decision),” he said.

Abella declined to give the specific “irreconcilable differences” between the two officials that led to Duterte’s decision. (READ: LIST: Where Duterte and Robredo part ways)

On Monday night, the President did not mention Robredo in his speech during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the Palace.

What plot?

Abella also denied insinuations that the Duterte administration is in cahoots with the Marcoses to snatch the vice presidency from Robredo.

“I think that’s quite a stretch,” Abella said.

Saying he himself is not aware of any plot, Abella said, “That’s maybe her opinion but as far as I know from the Cabinet, there’s none.”

At a press conference that night, Robredo said she felt she was being “eased out” of the Cabinet and heard that some Cabinet officials wanted former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr as vice president, instead of her.

But Abella said the mood in Cabinet meetings belied this claim. 

“I cannot see how because in terms of relationship within the Cabinet meeting, it’s warm, there’s a healthy exchange,” he said. (READ: Cabinet officials saddened by Robredo resignation)

Abella said the Cabinet had discussed “in general terms” Robredo’s resignation during the 9th Cabinet meeting that preceded the event.

Duterte has admitted a close friendship with the Marcoses, in particular with former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr who lost by a slim margin to Robredo in the elections last May.

Marcos joined him on stage at an event in Beijing, China, in October, where he told China-based Filipinos that if Marcos wins his electoral protest, he would become the next vice president. (READ: Duterte: If Marcos wins protest, ‘maybe we’ll have new VP’)

Marcos continues to contest Robredo’s victory. On Monday, he claimed it was Robredo who stole the vice presidency from him.

Some of Duterte’s appointees in government are known to have supported Marcos’ bid.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, for instance, was one of the leading members of Alyansang Duterte Bongbong, a volunteer group that campaigned for a Duterte-Marcos tandem. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.