DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 07 July) – “Pwede ka Housing, Ma’am? Can you be the Housing Secretary?,” President Rodrigo Duterte asked Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday afternoon, in a phone call phone televised over state-owned PTV 4.
The offer for Robredo to head the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) with Cabinet rank, came six days after Duterte and Robredo met each other for the first time at the turnover of military command at Camp Aguindaldo and three days after Robredo paid a courtesy call on the President in Malacanang.
The HUDCC was also headed by Jejomar Binay and Noli de Castro when they were Vice President to Benigno S. Aquino III and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, respectively.
Duterte’s offer to Robredo came 37 days after he told a press conference in Davao City that he was “non-committal” about giving Robredo a Cabinet post because he did not want to offend his friend, former Senator Ferdinand Marcos.
“Si Leni, she should understand that she belongs to the opposite side. There is no compelling reason for her to be a member of the Cabinet,” he said on May 31. But he added “we are still studying the script of the movie.”
Robredo ran under the administration’s Liberal Party. Marcos, the running mate of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, placed second to Robredo in the Vice Presidential race. Marcos filed an electoral protest before the Supreme Court’s Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) on June 29, a day before Duterte and Robredo took their oath as President and Vice President, in separate venues.
Marcos was among Duterte’s guests during his oath-taking at the Rizal Hall in Malacanang.
In his phone call to Robredo on Thursday afternoon, Duterte said he wanted to put a closure to the oft-repeated question if he would offer her a Cabinet post.
When Robredo on the other end of the line accepted the offer, Duterte repled, “Tanggapin mo Ma’am?” (You will accept, Ma’am)?
The President said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea “will hand you the appointment” in time for the “next Cabinet meeting and even on security matters para you’d be kept abreast of what is happening to our country. Just for you to know.”
In a statement, Robredo thanked Duterte for appointing her head of the HUDCC.
“Mas mapaglilingkuran natin ang ating mga kababayang walang tahanan at maipagpapatuloy natin ang ating pangakong itulak ang kaunlaran at kaginhawaan para sa ating mga kapus palad na kababayan” (We can serve better our homeless constituents and continue to push our promised progress and comfort for the least of our fellowmen).
Robredo said addressing housing concerns was an advocacy of her late husband, Jesse, who was a long-time award-winning mayor of Naga City and was Local Governments Secretary when his plane crashed in August 2012. She said this will be fulfilled and her new post will benefit those who are in the margins of society. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)