Vice President Leni Robredo. ABS-CBN NEWS

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte does not think Vice President Eleanor “Leni” Robredo is competent enough to lead the country in case he steps down.

But Robredo’s Liberal Party allies believe the vice president is a “compassionate, empowering and responsible” leader.

On Tuesday Duterte said Robredo “can never be ready to govern the country” because of her “incompetence.”

“She’s not capable of running a country like this, Philippines,” Duterte told reporters in Clark, Pampanga.

Earlier that day Robredo declared in a press briefing in Quezon City that she was willing to lead the opposition to the Duterte administration.

The vice president’s declaration “only formalizes what has been her role since her election into office two years ago,” said Liberal Party leader Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

“Now, amid the naked rule of force, utter disrespect for life, and abandonment of the people, especially the poor, [Robredo] is the voice of reason, calm and sobriety,” Pangilinan said.

Robredo’s decision was “hardly surprising,” Malacañang said, acknowledging that the vice president is the highest elected official of the opposition party.

“The Palace believes that an active opposition has a vital role to play in a healthy, well-functioning democracy,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.

“Having said this, we expect that the opposition movement would not only promote responsible and constructive debate to push the national conversation to a higher level of political maturity but also present to our people a viable alternative platform of government to address the longstanding problems of the nation. Our people deserve no less,” he added.

Talking about the proposed shift to a federal system of government, Duterte said, “I will not resign because it will make her (Robredo) president.”

“My resignation is addressed to the people so they can choose whoever they want,” he said. “I would like the Filipino to choose a new leader, especially if it is a new structure.”

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito expressed concern over the continuing clash between Duterte and Robredo, stressing the need to create “an atmosphere which is conducive for investment and business to grow.”

While a reconciliation between the two highest officials in the country is “a hard task,” it will “create a perception of unity and political stability, which will be good for the economy,” Ejercito said./PN

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