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Disposing Votes

On the evening of Dec. 4, Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo announced her resignation from her post as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) under the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In Robredo’s announcement, she expressed her sentiments regarding the plot to thwart her out of the Vice-Presidency, and Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco, Jr.’s text message relaying Duterte’s order for Robredo to “desist from attending all Cabinet meetings starting this Monday, December 5.” According to the Vice-President, Evasco’s message was “the last straw,” and was what prompted her to resign from her position.

In contrast, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez insisted that Robredo did not quit of her own accord, but was fired from the Cabinet due to Duterte’s distrust toward her actions. Duterte supporters reveled in the President’s decision, stating that Robredo deserved to be removed from the Cabinet due to her incompetence, and her alleged involvement in the “Liberal Party revolution” conspiracy.

However, it was clear from Robredo’s announcement that her lapses as chair of HUDCC were brought upon by other constraints: budget cuts, disregard of recommended appointments, and the failure to sign the Executive Order rendering the HUDCC effective. Furthermore, Duterte initially did not want to appoint Robredo as a member of the Cabinet—for the purpose that it might hurt the feelings of his friend, the defeated vice-presidential candidate, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

Although Evasco’s message gave a tone that Robredo was fired, and despite her willingness to work together with Duterte during her term, the President already showed no interest and support for the Vice-President even before they were officially instated to office. How can Robredo exact competence if Duterte does not offer his support? What can our Vice-President do if the President restricts her from doing anything? What worth does a Cabinet seat have if the woman seated there is forced not to function?

the Weekly Sillimanian fights with Vice-President Leni Robredo. Not only does removing her position in the Cabinet render the Vice-Presidency close to useless, but it also waters the noxious seed of censorship: that ideas which oppose that of the President’s—even if they come from the Vice-President—can and will be silenced.

The Vice-President of the Philippines is elected by the people. Disposing her of her duties is very much like disposing their votes—and ultimately, their voices. While Robredo remains in the Vice-Presidency, we shall shout—and no informal text message can lower our volume.

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