"The Vice President’s words reflect her open-mindedness and inner strength."
I have often wondered why Vice-President Leni Robredo, fresh from her victory in the 2016 elections, and after having been appointed Chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council which carries cabinet rank, fell out of grace so soon from the Duterte administration.
Lined up for the post was Vince Dizon, who worked tirelessly for the Duterte-Cayetano tandem in the last presidential campaign. But a series of twists and turns happened in the early days of July 2016, including of course the clamor that the VP-elect be given a position in the cabinet. Instead, Vince was named CEO of the Bases Conversion Development Authority, and the Vice President named in his stead as HUDCC chairperson.
The post was previously given to two successive vice-presidents: Noli de Castro under GMA, and Jojo Binay under PNoy. So it seemed but proper that the VP, though running under an opposing tandem during the elections just like Vice-Pres. Binay, be given the same post.
Months after, I just learned from my post in Taipei that the Vice President was curtly “dis-invited” to a cabinet meeting by then Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, for reasons never made public.
I thought that was rather rude, or perhaps the President was not inclined to tell the lady to her face that she was no longer welcome to his official family, and gave the onus to his trusted lieutenant. To this day, I do not know exactly why the lady vice-president was booted out of the cabinet.
Thereafter, the Vice President was invited to various fora here and abroad, a kind of getting-to-know-you engagement series, perhaps to size her up as many are wont to do with any constitutional successor.
In a rather bizarre twist of events, sometime in 2019, VP Robredo was challenged to lead the war against drugs, the President’s signature crusade, along with the head of the PDEA, some kind of another coordinating council or ad hoc task force. Gamely, she accepted. Weeks later, she was asked to give it up.
But through it all, the lady vice-president showed grace --- the grace of acceptance.
As head of the opposition, and having been elected as vice-president though she was from the main opposing ticket in 2016, she was expected to be the titular head of the opposition. She did what she had to do as such, but never did we hear her go beyond the accepted limits of civility in criticizing what she believed to have been mistakes, wrongs even, committed by the administration.
That after all is how democracy works.
What I find quite perplexing is why the President’s spokespersons, de jure as in officially appointed, or de facto, as in self-appointed, find it so easy to disparage every action or statement of the lady, even if first, she is a lady, and second, the words she uses are not at all acerbic compared to theirs.
Of late, there has been speculation about how Vice President Leni would chart her political fortunes come May of 2022. Would she run for the plum post of president? Or would she settle for a lower position, that of governor or representative of her province, Camarines Sur?
She was listed by the still-born coalition called 1Sambayan as one of its nominees for president, and where other names floated had politely declined, Robredo has gamely accepted, although her statements still sound quite uncertain. She keeps people guessing, which is politically correct and strategically sound.
And she makes a clarion call for unity, warning the self-proclaimed opposition coalition against being too quick to exclude other views. Last Sunday, the day after the 1Sambayan announcement, Robredo said the “opposition needs to reflect on why Pres. Rodrigo Duterte remains popular so it can refine its election strategy”.
“Hindi pwedeng tayo lang ang matino…dapat kasi lagi tayong bukas, at dapat mayroon tayong espasyo para pakinggan iyong iba. Kasi kung sarado tayo, walang mangyayari”.
The lady’s pronouncements show her open-mindedness; it is also a reflection of inner strength. This lady, despite all the brickbats hurled at her, has grace.
Whether she runs for president or not in 2022 is not as important for her as to find a candidate who can unite disparate middle forces, not necessarily the so-called “dilawans” to which she has been fairly or unfairly classified by the rabid Duterte die-hards.
It would seem by her words and actions of late, that she is not consumed by personal ambition, and would willingly concede the challenger role to anyone who has more winnable chances. And wisely too, she has prepared her default strategy—a local position among her and her late husband’s constituency.
Which is probably why spokespersons of the administration continuously hit her, baiting her to be angry enough to run even if the odds are difficult, because the poll surveys show that despite all the demonization levelled at her, she has a potent if small solid core of followers whose transferability to whomsoever she should decide to support, is quite high.
If that is the strategy, then it makes sense. But the lady vice-president, from where I sit, will likely not bite.
In any case, it is just about a hundred and twenty days before dies are cast.