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When they were in the Duterte Cabinet, neither Vice President Leni Robredo nor then-interior secretary Ismael “Mike” Sueno would have thought that they would be on the same side of the political fence one day.
Though Robredo was initially given a Cabinet post, she was eventually eased out – the President ordered to keep her out of Cabinet meetings, which prompted her to resign.
Sueno would find himself in a similar situation just four months after Robredo’s resignation. He, too, was forced out of the Duterte Cabinet over what he called baseless allegations. (READ: Sueno: Thank you, Mr President, but ‘I am not corrupt’)
At the Koronadal People’s Rally of the Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan tandem on Wednesday, March 15, the two former Duterte Cabinet officials not only shared the same stage – Sueno is now a “senior adviser and partner” of the Robredo-Pangilinan campaign in Soccsksargen.
Sueno is a former governor of South Cotabato and former Koronadal mayor. He supported Duterte’s presidential bid in 2016 and was one of his campaign contributors.
In his remarks before introducing Robredo, Sueno recalled the early days of the Duterte Cabinet when Robredo was still the housing czar. Even then, he said, the Vice President showed her integrity and strong character.
“During the first months of the Duterte administration, VP Leni was holding a Cabinet position. Since I was then the DILG secretary, I sat beside her during Cabinet meetings and our meetings would start with the President praising VP Leni, saying good things about her. This was an opportune time or chance for VP Leni to be sipsip (ingratiating) with the President and get a much higher Cabinet position, but she was silent and very determined and focused. She has a strong sense of morality,” he said.
“When she started pointing out government excesses and impunities, she lost her Cabinet position,” Sueno added.
He said that Robredo continued to be trolled online and was the subject of persistent disinformation that sought to falsely depict her as an incapable leader. In the meantime, he added, Philippine history was being “rewritten” in favor of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos – whose son and namesake is Robredo’s rival and the current survey front-runner.
“Fellow Mindanaoans, many Filipinos tend to believe these lies…. Fellow Mindanaoans, these are critical times. We cannot be passive and neutral and allow our history to be rewritten. We must act now. If we don’t, chances are, the beneficiaries of these lies and misinformation may come out winners of this year’s national elections. Truth must prevail,” he said.
Sueno cited efforts of various groups and personalities who have come out to support Robredo and Pangilinan and are helping counter the “lies and misinformation” plaguing this year’s elections.
He said these groups “see in Leni Robredo a strong, competent, and passionate leader who can ably stand to correct the lies and misinformation, restore human dignity, protect our territorial integrity, stop corruption and end impunity, overcome our health and economic challenges, and strenghten peace and unity among Fiipinos.”
Sueno also vouched for Pangilinan, saying that he, among all vice presidential candidates, would know best how to help farmers.
He endorsed several candidates on the Robredo-Pangilinan Senate ticket – staunch Duterte critics Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV, Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Baguilat, Chel Diokno, Alex Lacson, Sonny Matula, and Dick Gordon – as well as Neri Colmenares and fellow Mindanaoan and ex-Duterte Cabinet member Manny Piñol.
Sueno was mayor of Koronadal prior to the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, and was appointed as South Cotabato OIC during the Corazon Aquino administration. He was later elected as South Cotabato governor. – Mia Gonzalez/Rappler.com