The widow

"She is a fine and respectable lady despite the vitriol coming from her detractors and trolls."


She had modest ambitions before fate brought her to the political limelight. She was a housewife, and although she was a lawyer and former public attorney helping litigants with little or no wherewithal, she dutifully took care of her daughters, seeing them grow into adulthood with proud academic credentials.

Her husband was a highly acclaimed mayor of their capital city in Camarines Sur, recognized for excellence in good governance. In 2010 he was appointed by then President Benigno S. Aquino III first as acting secretary, later full-fledged Secretary of Interior and Local Governments.

The pinnacle of her future plans as a lawyer was a desire to be appointed some day as Regional Trial Court judge in their native province, perhaps after her daughters had all finished their college education and her husband, Jesse Robredo, would return to their native province.

But fate has a strange way of pushing a person toward destiny’s path. In August of 2012, Sec. Jesse Robredo’s light plane crashed into the deep waters off Masbate, there to perish along with the pilot.

Bicolandia grieved for a distinguished native son, and no less than the president and his Liberal Party elevated the deceased mayor into the pantheon of heroism. The nation grieved with the widow and her family, and admired Ma. Leonor Gerona Robredo for the dignified manner in which she accepted the sad news and the composure with which she and her daughters grieved and later buried her husband.

Party leaders prevailed upon her to run for Congress, and she readily won in the midterm elections of 2013. Since then, she had become a cynosure of congressional media, aided in part by her party’s build-up.

Thus it came to pass that when the LP’s first choice as running-mate for her husband’s successor to the DILG portfolio, Manuel Araneta Roxas III, the senatorial topnotcher of 2013, Grace Poe, refused their entreaties, the party turned upon the widow Leni to be Mar’s vice-presidential team-mate.

She ran against well-known names in national politics: her fellow Bicolano, Sen. Chiz Escudero; another Bicolano senator, Gregorio Honasan; Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, whose wife was Bicolana herself; and a former president’s son, Bongbong Marcos.

She won by a scant 263,473 votes over Sen. Bongbong Marcos, both of them garnering some 14 million votes while their opponents trailed far behind. Congress forthwith proclaimed her the vice-president elect on the basis of Comelec-certified results. Marcos contested the results, and filed a formal protest which till now hibernates in the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

Meanwhile, in a gesture of reaching out to the opposition, the newly-elected President Rodrigo Duterte appointed her to chair the Housing and Urban Development Council, a position with Cabinet rank. But months later, she received a curt message from then Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco that she was no longer welcome to attend cabinet meetings. End of the “honeymoon.”

Both the 1935 and 1987 Constitutions allowed citizens to vote mixed tickets, which is a bit ironic, considering that both were largely patterned after the US Constitution. In America, with its two-party system adopted by our 1935 fundamental law, presidents and vice-presidents are elected as a team, with no cross-party voting allowed. The reverse is true in our country, where the Liberal Party’s Diosdado Macapagal became vice-president to Nacionalista Carlos P. Garcia back in 1961. In the post-Marcos era, we had Fidel V. Ramos as president and Erap Estrada of another party as his veep. Thence, despite immense popularity, Erap was unable to carry his team-mate Ed Angara, and instead, people elected GMA as vice-president. Thereafter, PNoy and Jojo Binay, also from differing tandems. And now, Duterte with Leni Robredo of the “yellow” tandem.

It is simply designed to engender failed relationships. This fascination with checks and balances has gone to the extreme. When we do get to revising the Constitution, we must prescribe bloc voting for presidents, governors and mayors, along with their team-mates.

Teamwork makes for better governance in a developing country, rather than checks and balances in the executive, which are supposed to be provided by an independent legislature and judiciary.

Because the country has become so polarized by the social media-fueled enmity between the DDS and the dilawans, Leni Robredo has become a victim in the crossfire. And the surveys show it. In a field that includes Sara Duterte, Bongbong Marcos, Isko Moreno, Grace Poe and the Pacman, the vice-president is either tied or lower than either of the last two.

Single digit, or even barely double-digit numbers, in the surveys nine months before the filing of COCs is hardly inspiring, both to the candidate and her followers, and even would-be financial donors.

Which brings me to another anomaly I keep denouncing in this space—the absence of genuine political parties, the proliferation of flags of convenience, and candidate funding from vested interests because parties have none. All because of the confused and confusing Constitution.

But back to our vice-president, a fine and respectable lady to this writer despite the vitriol coming from her detractors and trolls.

“Sayang” that she has been caught in the crossfire, and a target of historical revisionists who now want to portray the Marcos years as “glory years” and the “son” as a victim of cheating.

So we come to the question—is she a winnable presidential candidate?

With a moribund political party behind her, she is not likely to attract the massive funding required of a presidential run. The wipe-out of her Ocho-Derecho in 2019 is indicative of such. Bereft of a Cabinet position, she has been left to criticizing a popular president, while retaining visibility through charity work, genuinely compassionate, yet still derided by the political enemies as pretense.

Word is out that the vice-president is planning to seek instead the governorship of her late husband’s province, with all the nemeses of the incumbent’s family supporting her.

That might be her one step backward, two steps forward option, and a better one for the moment. The widow is relatively young, and if she governs well her province, a comeback to the national arena is possible, with grace from the Lady of Peñafrancia of which she is an ardent devotee.

Topics: Lito Banayo , The widow , Vice President Leni Robredo ,
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