Philippines vice president quits cabinet, citing plot to 'steal' job

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 04, 2016 7:50 AM

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippines Vice President Leni Robredo announced on Sunday she would resign from her cabinet post, citing "major differences" with President Rodrigo Duterte and suspicions that a plot was underway to unseat her from the number two job.

Robredo is refusing to step down as vice president but said she decided to quit as Housing Secretary after receiving a text message from another minister, telling her on Duterte's behalf to "desist from attending all cabinet meetings" from Monday.

The president and vice president are elected in separate contests in the Philippines and Robredo was not Duterte's running mate.

"I had been warned of a plot to steal the vice presidency. I have chosen to ignore this and focus on the job at hand," Robredo said in a statement.

"But the events of recent days indicate that this plot is now being set into motion," she said, describing her cabinet exclusion as "the last straw".

Robredo gave no details of the alleged plot. Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco confirmed in a radio interview he sent the text message, citing Robredo's "irreconcilable differences" with Duterte.

Robredo said she had clashed with Duterte over his policies, including his war on drugs, which has killed over 2,000 people in the past five months, and his push to reinstate the death penalty.

She has not been shy about criticizing him, including over his "improper" public remarks about her appearance and private life.

Robredo, 52, a former lawyer and social activist, said she joined the cabinet because she believed helping the poor was one thing she and Duterte could agree on.

"From the very beginning, the president and I had major differences in principles and values," she added.

Robredo came from the party of previous president, Benigno Aquino. She defeated by a narrow margin Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator overthrown in a 1986 revolt.

Her election in May was dogged by allegations by Marcos Jr that the vote count was rigged to ensure the Robredo's Liberal Party had a stake in Duterte's executive.

Robredo was especially critical of last month's burial of his father at a "heroes' cemetery", saying it was an insult to the memory of those who suffered under the martial law Marcos imposed in 1972, in what was one of the darkest chapters of Philippine history.

Duterte supported the burial of Marcos, who was widely accused of brutality and plunder and enriching his cronies and family, which remains influential in politics.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Clelia Oziel)