MANILA, Philippines – “It’s still a struggle. Every day when I wake up and every day before I go to sleep, I still remind myself where I came from and why I’m here.”
Vice President Leni Robredo’s rise to power came swiftly, despite her initial reluctance to step into the limelight. From being the low-key wife of the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo, she became the country’s second highest official just 3 years after she herself entered politics.
Now, barely a month since she took office, Robredo said she is still adjusting to being the Vice President – no longer the Camarines Sur congresswoman.
“When you’re vice president, it’s an entirely different thing from being a congresswoman and I realize that now. When I was still a member of the House of Representatives I could sort of still maintain a very private life. I go around, I drive myself still,” she told Rappler’s Maria Ressa in a one-on-one interview.
Robredo, for instance, usually takes the bus whenever she goes home to Naga City. She and her family are used to the 10-hour ride – a trip they could previously take by themselves.
“I realize now that every time I go home, it’s a big production: security people, staff around you. And in a way it’s, you know, irritating, but it’s also something you have to accept and trying to find a middle ground is always a – it’s a challenge,” the Vice President said.
What’s key for Robredo now is to ensure that she stays grounded.
“You know, I really can’t say that I won’t change at all because I’m human. But I try to resist anything that is different from before,” said Robredo. “My fear always is I wake up one day and realize that I’m already a different person.”
‘Making dreams happen’
But what makes her “struggle” worth it is the power that is now in her hands to “make dreams happen.” Known for working with the marginalized as a human rights lawyer, Robredo has promised to improve the quality of life of the country’s poorest families.
“I’m now in a position to make dreams happen. In the sense that there was so much I wanted to do before but my power and my authority was limited and now I’m in a position where I can get things done,” she said.
Robredo divides her work week between meeting non-governmental organizations devoted to advocacies she wants to pursue, and talking to potential partners that can help fulfill her goals. Mondays to Thursdays are for meeting with stakeholders while Fridays and Saturdays are for community visits.
Aside from her portfolio as chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, the Office of the Vice President will also partner with groups working on 5 advocacy areas: food security, rural development, public health care, education, and empowerment.
“We have to encourage a redirection of the mindsets that are there already. For example, feeding programs. We’ve talked to so many groups doing feeding programs already, but it seems like the outcomes are usually, ‘How many children are fed?’, not how well [they’re fed],” said Robredo. “We want to redirect all the efforts into a more measurable kind of program.” – Rappler.com