Wenceslao: Robredo and a possibly hostile Duterte

ONE thing good about the assumption of Tomas Osmeña as Cebu City mayor is the announced oath-taking rites on June 28 at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC). His wife, Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña, announced recently that he would be taking his oath of office before Vice President-elect Leni Robredo. At least Osmeña is not abandoning Robredo like many other Liberal Party (LP) members.

Osmeña’s reason for doing so, though, is more personal than political. He was a friend of Robredo’s husband, the late Interior and Local Governments secretary Jesse Robredo. This was the reason why Osmeña didn’t have a problem supporting Leni’s candidacy in the May 9 elections, aside from the fact that his Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) aligned itself with the LP.

The BOPK-LP alliance may not be for long, however. Osmeña’s recent moves show he is trying to inch closer to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. When the May 9 polls neared, he allowed some of his supporters to prop up Duterte’s candidacy instead of that of LP standard bearer Mar Roxas. He also put the fight against criminality at the top of his priorities, synchronizing it with that of Duterte. During Duterte’s victory party in Cebu, Osmeña was seen with the president-elect.

Hopefully, even if he would balimbing to Duterte, Osmeña won’t abandon Robredo. Leni needs all the support she can get because there are signs that Duterte would be hostile to her. The president-elect’s pronouncement that Robredo didn’t figure in his plans and won’t be appointed to any Cabinet post already speaks volumes of how he plans to treat Robredo. The point is, he is much closer to Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whom Leni defeated by a slim margin.

Marcos himself exploited that by going to Davao City to meet Duterte before Robredo could. The son of the former dictator reiterated his empty claim that he was cheated and while Duterte did not echo Marcos’s claim, he fueled it by saying that he knows there was cheating in the May 9 polls. Did Duterte believe Robredo won because of cheating? How he would answer that question would determine his relationship with the elected VP.

That is why Robredo needs all the support she could get once the new administration takes over. Duterte’s camp knows that Robredo could be a threat if the president-elect manages to bungle the job. Consider that in a Social Weather Stations (SWS) pre-election survey Robredo’s trust rating was 45 percent while Duterte only garnered 26 percent. I won’t be surprised, therefore, if the Duterte camp would attempt to marginalize Robredo.

Under the Constitution, the function of the VP is that of mere a spare tire. This is why former LP stalwarts are jumping to the Duterte camp and abandoning the LP and Leni. They know where the real power lies. But that does not mean that Robredo is helpless. She is still but a heartbeat away from the presidency and the position of VP is not totally empty. There are still things she can do as VP. Besides, she has all the time to strengthen his support base.

As the highest-ranking government official among the remaining LP members, Robredo should not stay passive and instead play a leading role in consolidating whatever remains of the former powerhouse party. This should strengthen her political standing, something that is needed so she can withstand the possible assaults against her from the Duterte camp. For somebody that entered politics only by accident, this is a difficult task. But she and her camp need to do it.

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