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Robredo waited for 'written order' from Duterte

MANILA, Philippines –  Vice President Leni Robredo’s brief but rough stay in President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration started with a very public – some say dramatic – phone call. 

A few days after his first public appearance with the newly elected Vice President, Duterte gave Robredo a call while he was taping a media address. On the phone, Duterte offered Robredo the housing portfolio, despite his earlier pronouncement that he had no plans of appointing her because doing so might hurt the feelings of his friend, defeated Vice Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (READ: Hello, Leni? How Duterte made the Cabinet offer to Robredo)

In contrast to that very public offer, Robredo’s resignation – or dismissal, as far as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is concerned – was made quietly.

According to insiders, the events that caused the resignation of Robredo began on Friday, December 2, when a staff member of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco Jr. contacted Robredo’s chief of staff, Boyet Dy. The message was clear: Starting on Monday, December 5, Robredo should no longer attend Cabinet meetings.

Dy relayed this to Robredo. The Vice President, surprised and in disbelief, wanted to see a written document of the order. 

Sabihin mo (talking to Boyet) ‘pag wala tayong natanggap na sulat, mag-a-attend pa rin ako dahil one item on the agenda  was the discussion of the Yolanda update,” Robredo recalled at a press conference on Monday. “In fact, the whole of Thursday afternoon I was in Malacañang and headed the Yolanda rehab Cabinet cluster meeting.” (Tell him that if we don’t get a letter about it, I would still attend the Cabinet meeting since one item on the agenda is the update on Yolanda rehabilitation).

Evasco, through his staff member, hesitated, explaining to Dy that attending the Cabinet meeting would only “aggravate the situation.”

Robredo said: “I asked, what situation? They didn’t say.”

'Desist'

The Vice President proceeded to go to the office on Saturday morning, December 3, to sign papers. 

By Saturday afternoon, Robredo received the now-infamous text message from Evasco. The order to “desist from attending all Cabinet meetings” came from Duterte himself, who relayed the message through Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, who in turn sent the order to Evasco. (Evasco claimed later that he tried calling up Robredo at this point, but that the Vice President would not pick up.)

Robredo said they were “strong words.” She said, “Ako naman, iba na ‘yun.”  

Still, she wanted something less casual. A series of meetings with close aides happened from Saturday night to Sunday – to make sense of it all.

On Sunday morning, she said she sent 3 or 4 text messages to Go, telling him that she needed “confirmation from the President.” She said Go snubbed her,.

Robredo again huddled with her small team of trusted aides and supporters to discuss the matter and the next steps. “The discussion was not too long,” said an insider.

They decided to keep the information to a limited number of people up to Sunday morning. But Robredo noted in an interview with TV Patrol Monday night that as early as Saturday night, her team already saw some tweets from the Marcos camp about how her days were numbered.

Robredo acknowledged that it eventually dawned on her that she had been fired. “Parang fi-nire ako… Kasi how will I be able to function when I’m not allowed to attend Cabinet meetings?”

“The writing on the wall was already very clear” after she received no replies from Evasco or Go on Sunday, according to Robredo.

By Sunday afternoon, Robredo’s allies – a few Liberal Party leaders in the Senate and the House, other political parties and groups supporting her – were informed of the situation and her decision to resign.

At 6 pm on Sunday, she announced it in a statement to the media. – Rappler.com

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.

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