For a while there, I thought Vice President Leni Robredo had learned her lesson. I guess I was wrong.
The precipitous 11-percent drop of Robredo’s ratings in the last nationwide survey should have rung alarm bells in the vice presidential office in New Manila, Quezon City, I said. Indeed, after her spokesman announced that Robredo would pose no objection to giving her rival, former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a position in the Cabinet, I went so far as to say that maybe the vice president was finally getting the message.
The message is simple, really: Robredo’s usual strategy of opposing anything and everything that President Rodrigo Duterte said or did was only hurting her, while failing to do any damage to the very popular president. After the near-disastrous showing of Robredo’s videotaped speech at the sidelines of a United Nations conference in Austria, where she kept smiling while recounting the supposed horrors of Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, there was obviously a need to recalibrate her messaging.
But last week, Robredo reverted to her usual self. At an open forum with students of the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna, the vice president urged the government to study the so-called “Portugal model” of decriminalizing drug use.
Robredo must have been surprised by the backlash, which came quick and fast on social media and on almost every other platform. And some of it, to be sure, was not even a fair reaction to her original declaration.
The truth is, Robredo only called for the Duterte administration to consider other means of solving the illegal drug menace, including the decriminalization of certain substances. But she was immediately accused of being on the side of drug pushers and even of being on their payroll.
Yes, it is unfair to say that the vice president is a beneficiary of the illegal drug trade and the syndicates that produce and distribute narcotics. But it is a testament to Robredo’s newfound—and definitely unenviable—status as a do-nothing, knee-jerk critic that people are willing to believe the worst about her.
The flak that Robredo got for the remarks she made in Los Baños should force her to consider that perhaps even the slightest opposition she may make to Duterte is not going to be received well by the majority who support the President. And to realize that things have gotten so bad for her that perhaps she should just shut up already, if she has nothing good to say about the administration.
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Of course, my own long-held theory is that Robredo is simply too ambitious to see the potentially career-ending political train wreck that she is hurtling towards. And that she is also too dense to realize that all of the damage that is happening to her is self-inflicted.
Take, for instance, another of Robredo’s recent statements, when she declared in an interview that the real reason she ran for vice president was because she wanted to derail a victory by the younger Marcos. Now, I don’t know if Robredo understands that this is just the sort of declaration that makes people suspect that she is merely a stooge of Noynoy Aquino and the Liberal Party who can’t even pretend that she is seeking public office for a higher reason than partisan politics.
Robredo’s stop-Marcos goal also gives a lie to her campaign promise to save poor Filipinos whom she said were living on the hemlines of society, or the “laylayan ng lipunan.” There was no real plan to continue on Aquino’s imaginary straight path, either.
Robredo virtually admitted that the only reason she ran was because the LP would do anything to prevent Marcos’ victory. (That was something that Aquino himself promised during the last campaign, by the way.)
There was no higher purpose to Robredo’s campaign then. Just like there is probably no higher purpose for her opposing Duterte now, except to replace him, if the various plots to oust the president somehow succeed.
Is it any wonder that many Filipinos fervently believe that Marcos had been cheated out of his victory by the LP, which had vowed to stop him at all costs? The people don’t have to wait for the notoriously slow Presidential Electoral Tribunal to act on Marcos’ election protest—because Leni has sunk so low, they are already convinced that she was the beneficiary of a huge election scam.
And yet, Robredo keeps returning to the strategy of taking a position of unreasonable opposition and making unthinking, off-the-cuff statements that have—we now know—always gotten her in trouble. And in the foreseeable future, there seems no reason to believe that she will ever get a clue.
It’s gotten so bad that the acerbic pundit Teddy Boy Locsin, whom everyone thought had gone into hibernation since his appointment by Duterte as permanent representative of the Philippines to the UN, tweeted that Robredo is an “idiotess.” As someone who has often given well-meaning, unsolicited advice to the vice president that she somehow can’t seem to get from her LP mates, I find no reason to disagree with Locsin.
The woman has decided to destroy herself, with no help at all from Duterte, Marcos or even her own Yellow puppet-masters. It’s painful to watch, but it’s really her choice.