Philippine VP quits Cabinet in new Duterte dilemma

The Philippine vice president resigned her Cabinet post Monday after citing irreconcilable differences with President Rodrigo Duterte, who had banned her from attending Cabinet meetings, in a new political dilemma for the leader.

Robredo, who stepped down as housing secretary but will stay on as vice president, spoke of "major differences in principles and values" with the brash-talking president and an unspecified plot to remove her from the vice presidency. There was no immediate reaction from Duterte.

In her resignation letter, Robredo told Duterte that she "exerted all effort to put aside our differences, maintain a professional working relationship and work effectively despite the constraints." But she said Duterte's order banning her from Cabinet meetings had made it impossible for her to do her job at the housing agency.

"Remaining in your Cabinet has become untenable," she said.

A human rights lawyer and respected political newcomer, Robredo said Sunday that she would stay on in her elected post as vice president. She was set to hold a news conference later Monday to explain her action.

In the Philippines, presidents and vice presidents are separately elected and often come from rival political parties, like Duterte and Robredo.

"I will not allow the vice presidency to be stolen. I will not allow the will of the people to be thwarted," Robredo said in a statement Sunday, without elaborating. She did not include the allegation in her resignation letter.

Aside from Robredo, Patricia Licuanan, the head of the government's Commission on Higher Education, said that she learned through a text message that Duterte had also banned her from attending Cabinet meetings, but that she would remain in her post.

Robredo's resignation comes amid a political storm over Duterte's decision to allow the burial of long-dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the country's Heroes' Cemetery and a bloody crackdown against illegal drugs that has alarmed Western governments and human rights watchdogs.

Robredo is the second official to resign from Duterte's administration in less than a week. Maria Serena Diokno quit as head of the government's historical commission last Tuesday to protest Duterte's decision to allow Marcos' reburial in the cemetery.

Diokno has since joined street protests by anti-Marcos groups condemning the secretive Nov. 18 burial.

Robredo on Sunday cited her opposition to the burial, the drug killings, Duterte's plan to reimpose the death penalty and "sexual attacks against women" among the issues on which she differed with Duterte, who took office on June 30.

The last straw, she said, was when she was notified Saturday by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. through a text message about the president's order for Robredo "to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings" starting Monday.

Evasco said Duterte decided to bar her from Cabinet meetings because of her "irreconcilable differences" with the Duterte administration.

Robredo, 52, did not provide details about the alleged plot to remove her from the vice presidency, but her electoral victory has been questioned by her closest rival in the race, former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., a son of the late dictator and a friend of Duterte.

Marcos Jr. lost by a slim margin to Robredo, the widow of a popular politician who built a name as an honest, hands-on provincial mayor who wore slippers to work and reached out to the poor in the countryside.

Robredo's husband died in a plane crash in 2012, and she later acceded to widespread calls for her to enter politics.