"Can the Vice President be the first-rate national leader that the people of this country have long been wishing for?"
Toward the end of 2020, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would not be standing for election in this year’s German general election. In so doing the Chancellor signalled the impending exit from the international political arena of one of its most influential figures and the beginning of the end of one of Germany’s most successful political careers of the last 50 years.
The remarkable thing about Angela Merkel’s political career is that it started in East Germany, the communist-ruled part of Central Europe’s most powerful country. When East Germany collapsed following the removal of the Berlin Wall, the bright young activist moved west and started getting involved in the politics of democratic West Germany. The succeeded in winning a seat in the Bundestag, the now-unified Germany’s lower legislative chamber, and became active in the chamber’s strategic committees. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
Angela Merkel was Germany’s longest-serving Chancellor of the post-World War II era. Given Germany’s superior economic clout - it has the world’s fourth-largest economy - the German Chancellor has for some time been the ‘primus inter pares’ of Western Europe’s political leaders. With her intellect, her political skills, and her bearing, Angela Merkel played the role well.
The retirement of Germany’s much-admired Chancellor has come at a time when the voters of this country are preparing for the election of a new President of the Philippines and contemplating the victory prospects of the sole female candidate for that position, namely, Vice President Leni Robredo.
Can the Vice President be the first-rate national leader that the people of this country have long been wishing for? Can Leni Robredo be the Philippines’ Angela Merkel?
She very well can. Leni Robredo’s personal qualities, temperament, professional achievements, and political philosophy mirror those of the former German Chancellor.
Like Angela Merkel, Leni Robredo is a decent, God-fearing individual. She has demonstrated an enormous capacity for empathy, like the German Chancellor, who stood up to her fellow-European Union colleagues and allowed the entry into Germany of tens of thousands of Middle Eastern and North African refugees.
Vice-President Robredo is a composed and patient person who has displayed resilience in the face of personal tragedy and official humiliation. She has soldiered on the despite the shabby treatment she has received from President Duterte during the last five and a half years.
Like Angela Merkel, Robredo has authentic compassion for the poor - those who she terms “yung mga nasa laylayan ng lipunan.” The former German Chancellor was born to a middle-class family in northeastern Germany and knows what it’s like to live in a modest-means environment.
Most importantly, Leni Robredo and Angela Merkel are firm believers in democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. During Angela Merkel’s Chancellorship, Germany was in the forefront of the European Union’s push for human rights and personal liberties around the world.
In Angela Merkel the German people had an Ina ng Bayan. During her vice presidency, Leni Robredo has functioned as the Ina ng Bayan, using her limited power and even more limited resources to bring good cheer, solace and, above all, hope to the millions of Filipinos who elected her to the position she occupies today. As the nation’s Chief Executive, Leni Robredo will be a greater Ina ng Bayan.