THE next presidential election is still five years away but it looks like Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo is already suiting up for the 2022 race to Malacañang.
That she is gearing to perhaps succeed President Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s next leader seems to have been given away by her hosting with a seasoned broadcaster a “weekly public service radio program.”
The radio program, “BISErbisyong LENI,” debuted on Sunday last week over RMN-dzXL with simulcast over RMN-Cebu, RMN-CDO (Cagayan de Oro), RMN-Davao and RMN-Naga.
It is no coincidence that RMN-dzXL’s transmitter is located at the site occupied by Radio Veritas, which is owned and run by the Roman Catholic Church. Also, it is not destiny that is at play with RMN-Naga being in Naga City in the Bicol region’s Camarines Sur province, the Vice President’s hometown.
Radio Veritas, meanwhile, was the “divine force” that helped catapult Corazon Aquino to the highest post in the land in 1986 and later Fidel Ramos (1992), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2004 and 2004-2010) and Benigno Aquino 3rd (2010-2016).
It is a dyed in the yellow wool astute juggler of religion and politics whose luck, however, ran out with Joseph Estrada (1996-2001) and Rodrigo Duterte, who was overwhelmingly voted into office in 2016, and whose term will end in 2022.
The Church had demonized Estrada and Duterte but failed to stop the two charismatic and hugely popular men from marching on to the Palace.
It is widely suspected to have helped oust Estrada in a “people power” uprising in 2001 over corruption allegations against the movie actor-turned-politician.
Robredo, unlike Estrada and Duterte, is strongly backed by the bishops, especially on her largely unsubstantiated claims that extra-judicial killings or summary executions have been taking place since the incumbent administration began its crackdown on illegal drugs in July last year.
She now has a platform-cum-pulpit to supposedly promote her advocacies, including giving legal advice, which Robredo can dish out because she is a lawyer.
With her BISErbisyong LENI, which seems to allude to her being Vice President Leni (her nickname) who is at the “service” of the people, and whether an electoral protest against her by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. prospers and she is stripped of the vice presidency, she will hold captive the entire archipelago via transistor radio.
Many before her had used the airwaves to win local and national elective positions and Robredo is not one to miss out on the power of radio over television and social media, especially in many provinces where “signals” are a luxury to mobile phones and other electronic gadgets.
Yet, when the Vice President was interviewed last week by radio and television hotshot Mike Enriquez, she said the presidency was not on her radar.
When pressed by Enriquez if she would change her mind if “5 million” people endorsed her candidacy in 2022, she said it would take more than five million to win the presidential derby in that year.
Was that a yes, she would run if 5 million plus 1 endorsed her via a signature campaign?
This early, however, President Duterte seemed to have a least one presidential candidate in mind for the 2022 race—Sen. Richard Gordon.
Duterte reportedly referred to Gordon, who is the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, as the country’s next President during the commissioning Tuesday last week of the PRC’s humanitarian ship, the MV Amazing Grace.
And one possible senatorial candidate in the 2019 local elections from the Duterte camp?
Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, Philippine National Police chief. In a newspaper report also last week, de la Rosa demurred when asked if he had any intention to run for a Senate seat.
He said that he had none. Let’s hope that answer was cast in stone.
If it was not, de la Rosa would have proved that politics has the power to turn shrinking violets into Venus fly traps, the “cannibals” of the plant kingdom.