"Robredo has two choices."
Up or down?
That, in a nutshell, is the choice that Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo has to make—and soon—as the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for the next election looms.
Up, of course, is the presidency of the Republic. And down is the governorship of Camarines Sur, a possibility that we’re told she’s been considering of late.
If it’s still a guessing game as to which position—national or local—the Veep is likely to seek, it’s because she herself appears to be undecided on which path to take.
A stab at the presidency next year cannot be ruled out. As VP and Liberal Party chair, she’s the second-highest official of the land and the current head of the former political party in power, and she’s expected to lead the opposition charge against the anointed candidate of Rodrigo Duterte, despite early surveys showing she’s way below voters’ preferences if polls were held today.
Anyway, what’s keeping political observers not bewitched but bothered and bewildered by Robredo is her ambivalence.
She recently disclosed that she is actually more attracted at this point to local positions.
“Mula last year, sinabi ko na open ako sa lahat ng options. At ano yung options na yun? Tumakbo ako ng pangulo, governor, congressman, mayor. Or hindi na ako tumakbo at all—yun ang gusto ng mga anak ko,” Robredo said in her weekly radio program recently.
Robredo is a registered voter in Naga City in CamSur. Speculation that she is preparing to run in the gubernatorial race started to surface when she and her siblings acquired a piece of land in Magarao, Camarines Sur after their mother Salvacion Gerona passed away in February last year.
In a news report, Robredo’s spokesman Barry Gutierrez confirmed: “They are having a house built on it. The purchase of the property was a family decision.”
The Vice President has admitted that she has only gone home to Naga City twice this year. She has not changed her voter’s registration, she said, precisely because she has not made a decision about running for whatever position in 2022.
According to the same news report, Robredo registered herself on the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) in Magarao earlier this month, instead of in Naga City, an independent component city of CamSur.
Robredo was reported to have obtained her barangay clearance, one of the requirements for the issuance of a PhilSys or National ID from Barangay Carangcang in Magarao, where the house mentioned by her spokesman is being built.
Magarao is located in CamSur’s third district, which she represented in the House of Representatives (as Naga City resident) during the previous administration.
These moves suggest that Robredo is considering a bid for governor or the province’s third-district congressional representative in next year’s elections instead of running for president.
This is given credence by the fact that, one, she hasn’t changed her voter’s registration yet, which means she is still a voter in the independent component city of Naga, and, two, that she has managed to go home to Naga City only twice this year.
And if the Robredo house in Magarao is still under construction, this means the VP cannot claim it as her new residence.
What is eminently clear at this point, however, is that she cannot run for CamSur governor because she does not meet the requisites of eligibility according to our fundamental law.
The 1987 Constitution and Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code list down the requirements for a candidate for governor: (1) he or she must be a registered voter of the province for at least a year immediately preceding the election, and (2) he or she must be a registered voter in the province where he or she wants to be elected.
It appears that Robredo fails on both counts because under the charter of Naga City, which is an independent component city of Camarines Sur, its residents are not qualified to vote for any provincial elective position such as governor. A resident of Naga City must first transfer his or her residence to a local government unit (LGU) outside Naga City but within Camarines Sur to run for governor of the province.
As for the required one-year residency in the province of Camarines Sur, the house in Barangay Carangcang is—according to Gutierrez—still being built, which means it is not yet livable and cannot be considered a home or abode at this juncture.
Although the construction of the house can be an indication of Robredo’s intention to transfer residence, that intention needs to be translated into actual presence in the new residence location for at least one year immediately before the polls on May 9, 2022, for her to meet the residency requirement.
Robredo herself has said she has only gone home twice this year, which proves that the house-in-progress in Magarao is definitely not her new abode yet. The legal requirement for candidacy is that in a transfer of residence, the new place must be an actual permanent residence, and not just for vacation or leisure.
Moreover, actual physical presence must be demonstrated in the supposed new permanent residence in CamSur for at least one year immediately before the election where she will run for governor.
If that’s the case, Robredo has two choices: To ride off into the sunset after her term ends next year and live a quiet family life with her children, or defy the odds and make a bold bid to run for president. It’s her choice.
Email: ernhil@ yahoo.com