VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Panelo distorts reason behind order to bar Robredo from Cabinet meetings in 2016

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo wrongly claimed Vice President Leni Robredo was asked to “desist from attending” Cabinet meetings back in 2016 because the president “did not want to embarrass” her in front of other Cabinet members.

Robredo previously served as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) from July 7, 2016 to Dec. 5, 2016.

STATEMENT

In a Nov. 6 press briefing, hours after Robredo agreed to lead the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, Panelo was asked if the vice president would again be barred from attending Cabinet meetings should she and President Rodrigo Duterte end up having conflicting views.

Panelo then said:

"Not necessarily. As I said...the president didn't want her to be embarrassed inside the Cabinet [back in 2016]. Kasi kapag banat ka nang banat tapos kaharap mo iyong mga nasa miyembro ng gabinete, kapag nakantiyawan ka doon, mapapahiya ka. Para hindi na, huwag ka na munang um-attend

(Because if you keep on criticizing [the administration] and then you’re going to face the other Cabinet members, if they call you out, you will be embarrassed. To save her from that, [the president just said] don’t attend for the time being)."

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, Nov. 6, 2019, watch from 13:46 to 14:22

FACT

Duterte disinvited Robredo from Cabinet meetings because of the vice president's alleged participation in "oust-Duterte" rallies.

In separate interviews with ABS-CBN News and GMA News in December 2016, the president said:

Ngayon nandiyan siya (Today she’s there [in oust Duterte protests]). Kinabukasan, kaharap ko siya sa (Tomorrow she will face me at a) Cabinet meeting for example, or a day or two weeks after. Don’t you think it’s the height of incongruity to be facing somebody, to be there at the same time to be here?”

Source: ABS-CBN News, Duterte: Leni joining anti-Marcos burial protest was last straw, Dec. 29, 2016

Robredo had categorically denied joining such rallies, saying she was “not aware, much less involved” in any effort to “oust” the president.

Panelo’s claim also did not match the explanation given by then Cabinet Secretary Leonico “Jun” Evasco Jr. and then Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

Evasco, who informed Robredo via text about Duterte’s order, in a radio interview, said:

Utos ‘yan ni Presidente (That’s the order of President) Duterte. And the reason is...there are irreconcilable differences in between (sic) VP Robredo and the administration headed by Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte.”

Source: ABS-CBN News, DZMM TeleRadyo: Why Robredo was told not to attend Cabinet meetings, Dec. 4, 2016, watch from 0:54 to 1:15

Abella, in a Dec. 6, 2016 press briefing, said:

“I think it began specifically with the fact that the president no longer felt comfortable working with the vice president...The president, I suppose, felt uncomfortable with her engagement with certain political actions.”

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Dec. 6, 2016 — Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, Dec. 6, 2016

Duterte’s order came in the wake of protests against the clandestine burial of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Nov. 18, 2016, which Robredo vehemently opposed.

She resigned as HUDCC chair on Dec. 5, 2016, a day after she was told to stop attending Cabinet meetings, saying it “effectively made it impossible” for her to do her job.


Sources

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, Nov. 6, 2019

ABS-CBN News, LOOK: Text telling Robredo to stop attending Cabinet meetings, Dec. 4, 2016

Associated Press, Citing differences, Philippine vice president quits Cabinet, Dec. 5 , 2016

Inquirer.net, LOOK: Robredo formally resigns as HUDCC chair, Dec. 5, 2016

Leni Robredo official Facebook page, Vice President Leni Robredo addresses the media, Nov. 6, 2019

ABS-CBN News, Duterte: Leni joining anti-Marcos burial protest last straw, Dec. 29, 2016

GMA News Online, Duterte on new Cabinet offer for Leni: I am not considering it, Dec. 29, 2016

ABS-CBN News, Robredo denies calling for Duterte ouster, Dec. 30, 2016

Rappler.com, Robredo: I never joined a rally calling for Duterte ouster, Dec. 30, 2016

Manila Standard, Robredo denies hand in oust-Duterte rallies, Dec. 30, 2016

ABS-CBN News, DZMM TeleRadyo: Why Robredo was told not to attend Cabinet meetings, Dec. 4, 2016

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Dec. 6, 2016 — Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, Dec. 6, 2016

Leni Robredo official Twitter account, Marcos is no hero, Nov. 18, 2016

ABS-CBN News, LOOK: VP Leni Robredo’s resignation letter, Dec. 5, 2016



(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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