NAGA CITY: Exactly 45 days ago on Friday, then outgoing Interior secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd was wooing Sen. Grace Poe to become his running mate.
Now, the standard-bearer of the Liberal Party went all the way to this city on the eve of the feast of the Lady of Peñafrancia–the patroness of Bicolandia–to sing the same tune and convince Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo to take the place originally reserved for Poe.
But just like Poe before her coming out party last Wednesday, the 51-year-old Robredo continues to play coy about her plans for next year’s elections.
The widow of good governance icon and one of Bicol’s illustrious sons, Jesse Robredo, said she is undecided on Roxas’ offer.
Robredo said she will decide before the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy on October 12.
In earlier interviews, she rejected the idea of her running for Vice President.
The lawmaker said she lacks the experience to hold the second most powerful elective position of the land.
Robredo had admitted entertaining thoughts of running for senator.
Malacañang said Robredo’s track record in Congress makes her qualified to become Vice President.
“She has a very good head on her shoulders. She is also a lawyer [and her record is spotless],” Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said in a media briefing.
Valte noted that Robredo authored several bills promoting transparency and accountability in government.
The congresswoman is one of the authors of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which is yet to be approved in the House of Representatives.
She also proposed the Full Disclosure Act requiring all government agencies to disclose their budget and financial transactions.
“You see from her work also that is what she wants to integrate into the system,” Valte said.
“‘Yung prinsipyo ni Congresswoman Robredo ay nahahalata namang naka-align sa prinsipyo ng Pangulo, sa mga prinsipyo ni Secretary Roxas [Her principles and those of the President and Roxas are aligned],” she added.
Valte said there have been previous initiatives to convince Robredo to run for Vice President.
The standoff in talks between the LP and Poe mid-August prompted a group that included the late Jesse Robredo’s colleagues in the Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance to launch a support group for the Bicolana lawmaker.
Former Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada cited the need to be practical and prepared in case Poe turns down the administration party’s offer.
Tañada then said they firmly believe that Robredo should be Roxas’ running mate in case Poe rejects the LP’s offer.
With Poe drawing the line, Roxas and LP shifted to Plan B and offered the “spare tire” slot to Robredo, who reportedly was the first on the shortlist that included Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th.
Pictures posted on social media on Friday showed Roxas together with Robredo in a meeting with Nueva Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tirona. Another picture shows Roxas on the wheel of an SUV with Robredo on the front passenger seat.
Robredo has reportedly sought Tirona’s counsel regarding the administration party’s draft for her to gun for the vice presidency.
Social media was abuzz on Thursday after Robredo posted a picture of her late husband with the caption, “Can I use my lifeline?” The post, which had been deleted, indicated the pressure the lawmaker is undergoing.
The Liberal Party will hold a convention on September 28 to formalize the nomination of Roxas as the party’s standard-bearer and to finally select his running mate.
Caloocan City (Metro Manila) Rep. Edgar Erice, the LP’s vice president for political affairs, had said Roxas was given a free hand to choose his running mate.
Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., however, said the looming battle between Escudero and Robredo for the vice presidency will not split the solid Bicol vote.
Andaya was reacting to a statement of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda who said it would look bad if two Bicolanos will dispute the same position.
He was referring to the possibility of Robredo going up against Escudero, who hails from Sorsogon. “The Bicolano vote will remain solid. Having two Bicolanos [running]is good for democracy. The Bicolanos will choose the candidate who deserves to serve them in time,” Andaya, who bolted the LP and joined the Nationalist People’s Coalition on Friday, said.
The Bicol region, which is composed of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Masbate, Sorsogon and Catanduanes, account for 2.49 million votes.
“They [Bicolanos] will have an intelligent choice,” Andaya, who is supporting Poe and Escudero, said.
“They both have fans.”
Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzales, meanwhile, said the administration party’s decision to pick Robredo as Roxas’ running mate is unfavorable to Bicolanos.
“We don’t want a fellow Bicolano contesting the same post as it will divide the votes and
the chance of winnability might be remote. With that, the non-Bicolano running for the same position will have an edge,” he said.
“Chiz is very strong candidate. He has a lot of supporters around the country and a future President. We have been longing to have our own President. But as party man, we have to abide by the party’s decision,” Gonzales added.
Malacanang spokesman Edwin Lacierda has started a social media campaign to convince Robredo to run for Vice President through the hashtag #jumpwithleni.
“WWJD? Let us all jump with her,” Lacierda said in his Facebook account. He also posted a photo of him literally jumping.
Lacierda said WWJD stands for “What Would Jesse Do?”
“As Ethel de Borja suggested, you and your daughters are not alone, we will all jump with you!” he added.