Off the bat, vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo admits she has no celebrity endorser or showbiz connection to help boost her campaign.
“Makiki-share nalang ako kay Mar [Roxas],” joked the incumbent Representative of Camarines Sur and running mate of the administration’s bet for president.
Nevertheless, much as the widow of former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo acknowledges that any shape or form of celebrity can work wonders on a candidate’s popularity, she is still very satisfied with how her numbers have gone up in terms of awareness these past months.
“We’re not looking so much on ranking but more on the percentage of awareness, [which I’ve gained since declaring my candidacy],” she told a very small luncheon of Lifestyle and Entertainment editors mid-January, including The T-Zone. “I started at 1 percent in October, then moved on to 3 percent, then seven, then 14 And before the end of the year I was second, tied with Bongbong [Marcos] at 17 percent. It was more than we were targeting for [to gain a level of awareness]of 15 percent by January.”
She just as quickly conceded though that she has to long way to go in catching up with the front runner for vice president, Sen. Chiz Escudero.
“I believe he’s at 30-something, and he’s already so popular having gone through so many national elections [not to mention]his political experience, and even his showbiz connection,” she noted. “But [despite that]I haven’t been discouraged because we’re coming from very different viewpoints, and his strengths are not mine.”
Asked what hers were, she replied, “I would say my strength first of all is more on campaigning on the ground from my experience helping Jesse and my own in local bid, rather than the air war [via radio and TV ads]. More importantly, I think I’m offering something that’s also different from the rest of the candidates for vice president.”
She started explaining her platform by revealing she would rather not be appointed to a cabinet position as is customary for the elected president to do.
“Gusto ko i-redefine yung office ng vice president,” she related. “Although mas prestigious yung may cabinet portfolio, kung ako lang ang tatanungin, gusto ko, i-assign ako sa special projects because I don’t want to be barred down by administrative concerns in doing my work.”
Just as her late husband did when he was mayor of Naga City, Cong. Leni said she wants to do away with patronage politics and bureaucracy, and form and implement policies that will make the government’s response to Filipinos more honest and more effective.
“I would like to establish a convergence program for anti-poverty kasi ang tagal ko na sa NGO, and very frustrating sa amin na maraming programa para sa mga mahihirap pero hindi sila na-ma-maximize because of bureaucracy. Kung bigyan lang ng mandate ang vice president na i-organize yung mga programs for poverty, bawasan ang bureaucracy, at i-stream line sa isang opisina, it would, for me, make the office of the vice president more significant.”
It can be recalled that it took quite a long time for both President Aquino and Roxas to convince Cong. Leni to run for vice president. She gave two reasons why she accepted the challenge in the end.
For the first, she said, “Even my daughters didn’t want me to run as everyone knows, but I told them, ‘After your dad died we all gained responsibilities bigger than ourselves’.”
“Another [deciding factor]were my colleagues in the NGO who told me, ‘Hindi mo ba naalala yun mga panahon na walang nakikinig sa atin?’ They said that this is an opportunity to be in a position to finally be heard. Like I said, no other candidate in the present landscape is carrying my agenda—yung matagal na naming pinaglalaban ng asawa ko sa reform movement kung anong klaseng gobyerno ang dapat meron tayo. If I can take a step toward doing that then sa akin this [candidacy]is a worth a try na dapat pagpapaguran.”
And although she is the administration’s vice presidential bet, Cong. Leni never hesitates to speak her mind if and when she sees issues, which government failed to address properly.
With a good natured laugh, she said they never scolded her, for example, when she said the Aquino administration failed to distribute land to farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
“What you see is what you get; I’ve never been trained to answer. I’m still the same—I say what I think, and I say with I feel,” she put simply.
Asked what she thinks her late husband is thinking right now, she laughed again, and replied, “Pareho kami ng mga anak ko ng iniisip. Sabi nila sa akin, ‘Mama, tinatawanan ka ni Papa.’ Kasi alam niyo yung asawa ko pag nasa bahay yon, naglalambing yon sa amin: ‘Hilutin mo nga ako, pagod na pagod ako.’ Pero pag may tao na nabubuhayan, parang na e-energize siya pag may tao. So kami, tawang tawa sa kanya.
“Pero ngayon, ganong-ganon ako, and everything I told him before, parang nangyayari din sa akin,” she ended.