No Cabinet post for Robredo? No problem
President-elect Rodrigo Duterte cannot be faulted for his decision not to consider Vice President-elect Leni Robredo for a position in his Cabinet.
Aside from Robredo being a member of a different political party and his not wanting to hurt the feelings of his friend, defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Duterte wants to give priority in appointments to high government positions to the people who helped him win the presidency. Thus, the majority of his appointees are political allies, people he worked with in the past, former college classmates, and friends of long standing.
Although Duterte campaigned on a platform of change, he is still, at heart, a traditional politician who believes that favors earlier given should be reciprocated, in one way or another, when the opportunity presents itself.
Whether or not the people he has named to his Cabinet can help him fulfill his campaign promises remains to be seen. Sometimes, the best of intentions are not enough to get things done in a bureaucracy that considers political patronage and advancement of personal interests as par for the course.
Robredo’s exclusion from the Cabinet does not mean she has to content herself with being a “spare tire” to the presidency and (knock on wood) wait for Duterte to die, resign, get impeached, or be seriously incapacitated to perform the duties of his office.
The Office of the Vice President is a constitutional office that is provided with funds from the national budget to defray the expenses of its occupant and his or her staff in the performance of official activities.
Since Robredo will not be a member of Duterte’s official family, she will be free to speak her mind on the issues of the day and, where appropriate, go against the administration’s position, something she “ethically” may not be able to do if she holds an appointive government position.
It will be recalled that before Vice President Jejomar Binay launched his campaign for the presidency in the May 9 elections, he was restrained in his criticisms of the Aquino administration out of respect for being part of his Cabinet. But after Binay threw his hat in the presidential ring, he railed against the failures and shortcomings of the Aquino administration. This turnaround became a serious integrity issue against him in the campaign.
With Robredo at liberty to plan her official and personal activities without having to check with Malacañang, she will have all the time in the world to promote the advocacies she engaged in when her late husband Jesse Robredo was mayor of Naga City and when she was a congresswoman.
She can advance her pet projects—empowerment of the underprivileged members of our society and poverty alleviation—directly through her office or by working with existing nongovernment organizations. Either way she does it, the prestige and influence of the second highest political office of the land will be helpful in accomplishing the objectives of her projects.
With her engaging personality and eloquence in expressing her thoughts, she will not find it difficult to solicit the assistance and cooperation of the media in bringing attention to her advocacies.
And if Duterte makes good his statement that he will refrain from holding media conferences during his term, Robredo could find herself a favorite source of news by a Duterte-starved media.
Although Robredo can legally use the funds of her office for her projects, she may have to tap the private sector for financial contributions to keep her projects moving.
There will be no problem, I think. She can look forward to generous assistance from private companies with strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs in their mission statements.
With Robredo’s reputation for simple living, corruption-free service record and judicious use of public funds, no hard sell is needed to convince corporations with deep pockets to share part of their profits for her grassroots programs.
Besides, it helps to be in the good graces of the person who may suddenly become president if the Fates decide that it’s time for the incumbent president to go, so she can take over the reins of government.
Robredo’s activities and movements in the coming days will be closely watched by politicians who plan to run for president or vice president in 2022, especially those who are presently hanging around Duterte or trying to give the impression that they have his ear.
These wannabes will make sure that Robredo will not be a threat to their political ambitions, or that her “free status” can be parlayed to make her a viable presidential candidate six years from now.
The last time a vice president was shunted out of a Cabinet position and allowed to freely manage his time and activities, he later became president. That was Diosdado Macapagal.
History has an uncanny way of repeating itself.
Raul J. Palabrica ([email protected]) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.
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