Vice President Leni Robredo’s new position as the co-chairperson of the Inter-agency Council on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) is not a Cabinet position, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo clarified last night.
“The post she was appointed to is not a Cabinet-level [position]. The discretion to appoint her as a member of the Cabinet, in addition to her appointment as the anti-illegal drug czar, lies with the President,” Panelo said in a statement released to the media.
The comments contradict what Duterte told the media in Davao City on Oct. 31, when he said that for him to make Robredo the anti-drug czar “I will have to first make her a Cabinet member. Then I will give her the marching orders and the specific functions. All in connection with drugs will be hers.”
Duterte made that proclamation almost a week before Robredo accepted his challenge to accept the ICAD post, an offer he made while voicing his frustration with her criticisms of his bloody anti-drug campaign, which has left thousands of suspects dead. Robredo’s acceptance of the post surprised many, even her allies, who told her that it was a trap meant to “destroy and humiliate” her.
Prior to Panelo’s announcement, Robredo had expressed her reservations about joining Duterte’s Cabinet meetings, saying more than a week ago that she will only attend if she were invited.
However, the disclosure that Robredo is not a Cabinet member may come with complications of its own. According to lawyer Jesus Falcis, a Robredo supporter and broadcaster, Panelo’s announcement that the vice president’s ICAD post is not a Cabinet position means that her appointment is unconstitutional.
“If VP Leni Robredo’s designation as co-chair of the ICAD is not of Cabinet rank, then such designation is UNCONSTITUTIONAL under Article VII Section 3 of the 1987 Constitution which states: ‘The Vice-President may be appointed as a Member of the Cabinet. Such [an] appointment requires no confirmation,'” he said in a Facebook post.
“The VP may only be appointed to a Cabinet position and nothing else. This is what has been taught to law students across all law schools.”
The actual law, however, might not be as clear-cut. While the Constitution does indeed allow for VPs to concurrently serve on the Cabinet, it does not explicitly forbid them from holding other posts.
As for the matter of confirmation, Robredo appears to be in a unique position. While past presidential appointees have not required confirmation, they were also serving in the capacity of Cabinet members.
Robredo used to be a member of Duterte’s cabinet, having worked for five months as chairwoman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council. However, she resigned in December 2016 after Duterte told her to stop attending Cabinet meetings. She said that her “major differences” with the president made it impossible for her to fulfill her responsibilities.
Those differences appear to be cropping up again, this time after Duterte threatened to fire Robredo if she shared classified government information with other parties. Duterte made the threat after the vice president met with American officials to discuss how the U.S. government could help ICAD in its campaign against the illegal drug trade.