It was seen by many as extending an olive branch, of healing and moving on, and a gesture of unity and coming together for the sake of the Filipino people. A president embracing a vice president from the opposition party, making her a part of his trusted family, the Cabinet.
Leni Robredo was appointed by Rodrigo Duterte as his Housing Czar, making her chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
It seemed then as the perfect fit for someone who ran on a campaign platform as a lady for the masses, the marginalized — the so-called laylayan. For what better public service is there than to take care of putting a roof over the heads of the poor and homeless, and especially those who lost everything in the wake of devastating calamities. Like Yolanda.
But Robredo chose a different path. She used her Cabinet position and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) as a pulpit to criticize the president and to mimic old and retired themes and memes of the Liberal Party and its minions that lost their bid to retain power and influence in the country.
Even as the Housing Czar, Robredo was more concerned about escalating what was lacking in the government’s efforts to rehabilitate the survivors of Yolanda rather than embarking on concrete measures to facilitate and expedite what was needed to make things right. She had the platform to do it — along with the resources, and we assume, the ear of the president.
But Robredo focused on a PR campaign to boost her status as “the voice of the opposition,” issuing statements on every single move undertaken by the Duterte administration. Even on issues not relating to her job in housing.
While criticizing the slow pace of building emergency shelters for the survivors of Yolanda, she herself was caught in the irony of choosing to be away on a holiday while her own hometown constituents experienced yet another calamity that hit the country.
Duterte had no choice but to limit her participation in the Cabinet because she was being not just a distraction but a road block to the many positive things the president and his official family were trying to do. Robredo’s eventual resignation didn’t surprise anyone. It was inevitable.
On Wednesday, President Duterte announced free housing worth P50 billion for survivors of Yolanda at a summit at the National Housing Authority (NHA) in Quezon City. The headline of the announcement was FREE HOUSING to the tune of P205,000 for each beneficiary. The grant benefits Yolanda survivors in Samar, Leyte, Tacloban, Palawan, Cebu and Panay.
The free housing is a recommendation that would have easily come from the Housing Czar, in consultation with housing officials and other members of the Cabinet. If only Robredo took her job more seriously!
Public servants cannot be all talk. Action speaks volumes. Action solves problems. Robredo talked. Duterte acted.
So, in hindsight, did President Duterte really need to appoint a Housing Czar in the person of Robredo?