Leni Robredo is not turning out to be the new Cory Aquino, like her Yellow boosters wanted her to become. Now, what she really wants to be—and some people have seriously proposed this—is Digong Duterte’s Imelda Marcos.
But hear the woman out. “Six years,” Vice President Robredo told a forum last Monday, “is a long time.”
I agree. Especially if you don’t have a real job or any real influence for that long a period.
As defined by the Constitution, Robredo’s job description is that of a spare tire in a car, a benchwarmer in basketball or an understudy in theater. She sits around doing nothing except wait for her big opportunity to come; otherwise, she stays where she is, in a high-profile but limbo-like political state, getting ready for a break that may never come.
Because Filipinos can vote for a split ticket, they usually pick presidents and vice presidents who don’t belong to the same party. In fact, in the past three decades, only Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Noli de Castro have been elected to the top two posts that they sought in tandem, in 2004.
Past presidents have sought to win over their vice presidents, especially if they ran on differing tickets, by giving them jobs in the Cabinet. Traditional political thinking dictated this strategy, because it is supposedly better to co-opt a popular vice president than to allow him to become a full-time critic who will campaign for six years to a captive audience who elected him in the first place.
But President Rodrigo Duterte, we now know, doesn’t really care for tradition—or even subscribe to orthodox political thought. And so he has refused to give a job to Robredo, as if daring her to become his highest-ranking political foe and critic.
Robredo looked at the vastly thinned crowd of Yellows behind her and decided she wanted “unity” with Duterte instead. Leni, who was being cast by the Yellows as the new Cory leading the opposition like Joan of Arc against the Dictator from Davao, felt that the better offensive was an Imeldific charm offensive.
Leni did not let Duterte’s refusal to make her a part of his official family get her down. Fresh from a grueling campaign, she decided to wage a new one—to win over the vote of one man, who just happens to be the president.
I give Leni credit for refusing to engage in a protracted political struggle with Duterte that she knows she can never win. But I think Duterte knows that Robredo needs him more than he needs her, because he can give her the position, the influence and the funding to stay relevant in the next years and beyond.
Robredo understood that while the LP may have funded her campaign (and, many say, engineered her victory), it cannot support a six-year battle against a powerful and popular president. Ultimately, even the orphaned Yellowists who have made Leni’s new digs in Quezon City their clubhouse saw the wisdom of winning over Duterte—perhaps because they, too, needed jobs, as Teddy Boy Locsin has trenchantly alleged.
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Duterte and Robredo finally met late last week, during the turnover rites for the national police. And after they met last Monday in Malacañang, where Leni paid Digong a visit, the Yellows seem to have convinced themselves that change is indeed coming—Robredo is no longer the political outcast that everyone thought she would become.
And what’s a cool new pairing without a mashed-up hashtag of the couple’s names? They have one now: #Dubredo.
But I’m really not so sure about that. After all, like her entire party before, from Noynoy Aquino on down, Robredo may once again be guilty
of misreading and underestimating Duterte.
My own suspicion is that Duterte is such an old-school gentleman that he cannot really bear to be rude to a woman. And because Robredo’s only real sin against Digong is to be in the company of the Liberals, Leni is betting that if she doesn’t sound like the new Abigail Valte, she will be able to wear his resistance down.
That is certainly what Robredo, the new, conciliatory Yellows and their media sympathizers want to happen. “We cannot afford wars,” as Robredo herself said, because “there’s a lot that still needs to be done.”
I never thought I’d see the day when the Yellows, who have always believed that they have a monopoly of righteousness, would embrace somebody like Duterte, even if only for six years. I actually expected that Robredo would follow in Cory’s footsteps, instead of becoming just another practical, conniving and unprincipled politician.
Oh, well. I guess if the Yellows who said they would immigrate if Duterte wins still haven’t even packed overnight bags and are now #Dubredo fans, I can’t really be more righteous than they are.
After all, even the sainted Cory wholeheartedly supported Gloria Arroyo against the supposedly corrupt and immoral Erap Estrada. Until Arroyo made a move to distribute Hacienda Luisita, of course, prompting Cory and her brood to accuse Arroyo of being immoral and corrupt, too, as they reprised the role of “principled” opposition leaders.