Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine vice-president resigns, promises to lead opposition to Duterte policies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 December, 2016, 10:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 December, 2016, 10:07pm

Philippine Vice-President Leni Robredo vowed on Monday to spearhead national opposition to extrajudicial killings and other flashpoint issues surrounding President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial anti-crime crackdown.

This is not the time for fear. It is a time for conviction. It is a time for courage
Vice-President Leni Robredo

The announcement, which came a day after she quit Duterte’s cabinet, makes her the highest-ranking official to publicly voice such firm dissent to the president’s hardline law-and-order platform.

“This is not the time for fear. It is a time for conviction. It is a time for courage,” Robredo, a lawyer, told reporters. Robredo, 51, resigned from Duterte’s cabinet after a top presidential aide told her over the weekend she had been banned from its meetings. Duterte on Monday accepted her resignation.

The president and vice president are elected separately in the Philippines, and the current pair belong to rival parties.

Robredo accepted a post as a housing czar after Duterte took office on June 30, following a tradition in which the vice president is given a cabinet position regardless of political affiliation.

But their simmering tensions boiled over because of Duterte’s decision to allow the embalmed body of dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the national heroes’ cemetery last month.

Robredo, 51, cited the Marcos burial as one issue on which she would be a “stronger voice” now she had quit Duterte’s cabinet.

She also highlighted Duterte’s drugs war, which has claimed more than 4,800 lives and led to accusations that the government is overseeing widespread extrajudicial killings.

“I will oppose all policies with a stronger voice... that I think are detrimental to the Filipino people,” Robredo said, specifically citing “extrajudicial killings”.

She also vowed to speak out against plans by the Duterte administration to bring back the death penalty and lower the age of criminal responsibility to nine.

“If being an opposition leader entails that, then I will be an opposition leader,” she said.

With surveys showing Filipinos overwhelmingly endorse Duterte’s hardline anti-crime policies, he has so far faced very little political opposition.

Turncoats are a feature of the Philippines’ democracy, and many members of Robredo’s Liberal Party joined the president’s alliance so they could receive funding and enjoy other opportunities of siding with the winner.

Robredo also on Monday elaborated on her claims Sunday that there was a plot to oust her as vice president. She alleged that Duterte’s allies wanted to install Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jnr, son of the late dictator, in her place.

Marcos Jnr finished a narrow second to Robredo in the May elections, and has filed a legal challenge to the result alleging voter fraud. The Marcoses are Duterte allies and the president has said they helped fund his presidential campaign.

A statement from Marcos Jnr’s office hailed Robredo’s cabinet exit.

“Her departure from President Duterte’s cabinet is long overdue given her very obvious adversarial attitude and opposite stance from his policies,” it said. Duterte made no mention of Robredo in a Christmas speech at the presidential palace, his only public appearance on Monday.

However he reiterated there would be no let-up in his campaign against illegal drugs, telling police not to fear being accused of abuse.

“Do not worry. Just do your job. Just obey my order, look for them and hunt for them. Follow this and I will take all the responsibility. I will answer for it personally,” he said.

Duterte has likened his campaign against drug addicts and traffickers to Adolf Hitler’s efforts to eliminate Jews. Last week he threatened to have human rights defenders killed for speaking out against the crime war.