MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo will be missed by some Cabinet officials.
Monday, December 5, was supposed to be her last Cabinet meeting but the day before, Robredo took matters in her own hands. She declared she would resign from Duterte's Cabinet altogether and find her own way to fulfill her mandate as the second highest official of the land.
"It’s sad that it had to end this way," said Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Monday, speaking about his personal views on the matter.
Andanar was among the Cabinet officials Robredo was friendly with, owing to his friendship with her husband, the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo.
Andanar, a former journalist, often interviewed the late Robredo and was once even stranded with him in the middle of Manila Bay.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in an interview with ABS-CBN in Moscow, said he did not expect Robredo's resignation.
"I was really surprised na nag-resign siya (that she resigned). Marami siyang ginagawa diyan eh (She was doing a lot there)," he said, talking about her work as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
To Lorenzana, it seemed Duterte trusted Robredo on some level because he always insisted that she be included in security meetings.
"Palagi sinasabi ni President na we should include her sa mga briefing namin kasi siya next in line (The President always says we should include her in our briefings because she is next in line)," he said.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, in Moscow with Lorenzana, said Duterte and Robredo had appeared close and friendly toward each other.
"Malapit si President sa kanya (The President seems close to her). The President has never shown feelings of animosity...I'm not surprised that the President likes her," he said.
Yasay said that Robredo should have asked to speak with Duterte right after receiving Cabinet Secretary Leoncio "Jun" Evasco Jr's text message, instead of declaring her intent to resign.
'Santa Maria Robredo'
What kind of person was Robredo in Cabinet meetings and why did Duterte want her to stop attending them?
Malacañang photos often show a smiling Robredo beside Duterte. In fact, interaction between the two seemed to be a favored subject among Malacañang photographers.
In some photos, Duterte can be seen pulling Robredo's chair for her, in the gesture of a gentlemen.
"She was always smiling," shared Andanar.
Duterte himself recalled good times with Robredo during Cabinet meetings. He admitted teasing the Vice President about her beauty, and even her "short skirt" and "smooth knees," teasing that did not sit well with Robredo and some citizens.
"Si Ma’am Leni, binibiro ko 'yan (Ma'am Leni, I always tease her). You know, when the talks get boring and the argument starts, I always enter a joke to make it more – pero tatawa talaga (but people really laugh)," he said last November 8.
A Malacañang official told Rappler that Duterte would also ask Robredo to lead the prayer at the start of Cabinet meetings, even once referring to her as "Santa Maria Robredo."
Robredo has gone a long way from her first Cabinet meeting last July when she was a newcomer to Duterte's official family.
"She was trying to find her way during the first few [Cabinet] meetings that she attended and, as she warmed up, as the weeks went by, the VP started joining the debates inside the [Cabinet] room," said Andanar.
As she participated in more Cabinet meetings, Robredo voiced out her thoughts and opinions more and more on many of Duterte's policies.
This came across to Andanar as Robredo's way of carrying the flag of her department.
"She also always fought for her department's interests because you know, in [Cabinet] meetings, you have your interests for your own department," he said.
"She was never remiss of those opportunities when she had to put her foot down for HUDCC," Andanar added.
Evasco had a different interpretation. Robredo's feistiness appeared to him, contradictory to the President's plans.
"There is no point for her to attend Cabinet meetings if her position is always contradictory to the President's," he told Rappler.
Robredo spoke up about her concerns on Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs, aside from housing concerns. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.