YESTERDAY'S announcement by President Rodrigo Duterte of his appointment of Vice President Leni Robredo as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) must have surprised many people, considering the President’s earlier pronouncements. Robredo is with the Liberal Party (LP) and Duterte earlier told her that he prefers to appoint his allies to government posts to those from the opposite camp.

Robredo, for her part, seemed preparing for a life without a Cabinet position and was mapping out ways to serve the marginalized (“mga sektor na nasa laylayan”) using the limited funds and reach of her office. But despite the snub, she called on the people to support the Duterte administration and even sought an audience with the President in Malacañang.

Duterte was not asked for the reasons for his turnaround but Robredo’s actions must have played a part in it. Some personalities, including former president Fidel V. Ramos who helped Duterte win in the May 9 presidential election, also said earlier that the nation would be best served if the President and the Vice President worked together. Duterte must have heard that.

While Robredo was consistent in saying that, if given a job by the President she prefers one that would empower her to streamline the functions of pro-poor government government agencies, the task of HUDCC head also suits her advocacy. Now she would be given a bigger platform to serve the marginalized sectors, although only for housing-related services. But that is better than using just the position of vice president for the purpose.

The important effect of her appointment, however, is that it presents an image of a government that is not fractured along political lines. And it could lead to substantial unity because Duterte and Robredo will be regularly talking with each other during Cabinet meetings, opening communication lines that is an antidote to the intrigues that will be hurled to fracture their relationship. The Filipino people would be better served with that setup.

While credit must be given to Robredo for reaching out to the President, the bigger credit should be on Duterte for acting like a statesman.