VP Leni as DSWD chief? Abella says it may be a 'difficult choice'

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FILE PHOTO. Vice President Leni Robredo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 18) — Vice President Leni Robredo as head of the Social Welfare Department may be a "difficult choice," a spokesman for the President said Friday.

"I'm not saying 'no' for Leni, I'm just saying that it seems it will be a difficult choice," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

"For the plain and simple reason that, for example, she has already resigned (from a Cabinet post)," Abella said.

Robredo quit her Cabinet post as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council on December 4 last year.

Related: VP Leni Robredo resigns as Housing Secretary

She said then that President Rodrigo Duterte's order for her to "desist from attending all Cabinet meetings" was "the last straw" in a series of efforts to supposedly derail her from doing her job.

Malacañang said "irreconcilable differences" made the President feel uneasy around Robredo during Cabinet meetings.

Despite "unfavorable conditionalities," Abella said Duterte still has the final say. 

Abella was asked to react to a Twitter poll created by Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson on who should be the next Social Welfare Secretary.

Duterte's appointee, Judy Taguiwalo was rejected on August 16 for the post by the Commission on Appointments.

Robredo was leading the unsolicited survey as of Friday morning. Social Welfare Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy was at a distant second, followed by Monica Louise Prieto-Teodoro, wife of former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro.

"I'm sure the President has other ways of measuring a candidate's capability aside from surveys," Abella said.

Duterte has not yet named a new DSWD appointee, Abella said, but an officer-in-charge may be announced soon.

Abella said it is possible that Taguiwalo may be given other posts in the government, and expressed well-wishes for the former government official.

"We wish Secretary Taguiwalo all the best in her future endeavors. She knows she will always have the President's gratitude and friendship for the time, albeit brief, that they spent together in the service of our people," Abella said.

Taguiwalo accepted Duterte's offer to head the DSWD on May 2016. She was a nominee of the communist National Democratic Front along with Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano.

Last Wednesday, Taguiwalo became the third Cabinet member rejected by the powerful CA, following Perfecto Yasay for Foreign Affairs, and Gina Lopez for Environment and Natural Resources.

Malacañang said the President respects decisions of the CA.

The appointments of Mariano and Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial are still pending.