IT IS amazing how disdain can turn into pity, yet that is what I now feel towards Leni Robredo.
She is one whose public narrative is cast as a transcript of a widow of an esteemed political brand, a devoted mother and wife, imaged as one that inherits a name that is synonymous with good governance, to carry on the fight.
She boldly took up a career in politics because of the death of her husband, and rose up the ranks in a short period from a neophyte legislator, to a reluctant candidate, to become a heartbeat away from being President.
She projected an image very much like her husband’s. Her metaphors of “tsinelas” and “laylayan” were natural symbolisms that continued his brand of politics. Both rest on the image of being ordinary, and she affirmed this by riding buses and escaping the pomp of congressional pageantry using a backdoor staircase, signifying a woman who was not seeking power, but only service.
It was, however, the readiness of someone with a camera to take pictures of her standing in a highway waiting for a bus in a place that buses should not stop, and her wearing a gown fleeing the opulence of a grand party but ready to call attention by posting such in social media, that one can began to smell the inauthenticity of this woman.
It is actually easy to be drawn into her narrative. The Filipino’s penchant for widow stories, given much impetus by the presidency of Corazon Aquino who was nearly canonized, and found in the story lines of many soap operas featuring strong matriarchs inheriting power and influence from their dead husbands, has made it easy for the story of Leni Robredo to pierce through the hearts of the soap opera- loving Filipino electorate.
She boldly stated during the election debates that she will be the last woman standing. Indeed, she ended as such, but it came with a terrible price – her legitimacy. Her election to the vice presidency is now the subject of an electoral protest that threatens to make her not only a loser, but also a beneficiary of election fraud.
The tragedy of Leni Robredo is that she tried so hard to assert her legitimacy by becoming a voice of a discredited opposition to an enormously popular President. And in this battle, one with a more organic, authentic, and down-to-earth grounding in politics would not have found difficult. But her nature unraveled. Her being constructed, simulated and imaged betrayed her inadequacy to lead a political war. Without the necessary training, and the required temperament, she became an unworthy and ill-equipped voice for her cause.
She is inarticulate. Her logic often does not convince, if it shows at all. She does not appear to know the rudiments of temperance in political discourse, and doesn’t know when to verbalize, and when to be silent. She is like a Pavlovian dog that behaves expectedly according to stimulus, one that can easily be lured to unravel by more seasoned political combatants like the President.
Leni Robredo’s greatest fault is that she wanted to be popular but she is not genuinely felt by people. Her husband was the expert in turning brands into myths. Unfortunately, she may have inherited the surname of Jesse Robredo, but not his gravitas. She just could not project the sincerity and authenticity that Jesse perfected to effectively mesmerize and draw an idolatry that silenced dissent, and buried dark secrets.
Leni Robredo is the clear evidence of the failure to force a narrative that is so scripted on a people that may be lovers of soap opera, but know how to discriminate good fiction from bad.
Just take a look at her numerous slips in authenticity and coherence.
She decries repression, and exhorts people to celebrate dissent, yet she wages a war against cyber critics and dismisses all of us critical of her as trolls, threatening to sue us. Her social media account deletes unfavorable posts, and blocks those who post them.
She attacks cyber-bullying, even as she is silent about the anonymous social media accounts that commit atrocious acts of cyber-bullying in her name. She condemns #NagaLeaks and the alleged rape threats to her daughter, but she is silent about the fact that her rabid defenders have repeatedly maligned people who are critical of her, with one even threatening to execute their entire families.
She declares her undying love for her dead husband, from whom, according to her, she just cannot move on. Yet, it took her 10 days to express outrage that his memory is being attacked.
Leni Robredo talks about sincerely helping the country, yet in one single irresponsible act she took to the world stage an unverified accusation of police brutality, which she labeled as “palit-ulo.” In her desire to hurt the President, she ended up shaming the country.
Everytime Leni speaks her social capital takes a hit. She is her tragedy.