Aquino, Roxas meet Robredo family

Bea Cupin
Is the ruling Liberal Party one step closer to convincing Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo to seek the vice presidency?
2016 MEET. Mar Roxas, President Benigno Aquino III, and Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo during the late Jesse Robredo's death anniversary. File photo by Joseph Vidal/Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – With less than a month to go before the filing of candidacies, President Benigno Aquino III met with the woman he now wants to run as the ruling Liberal Party (LP)’s vice president, Camarines Sur Representative Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.

In a press conference in Apayao on Wednesday, September 23, Aquino said he met with Robredo and two of her daughters Tuesday, September 22.

Also present during the meeting in Malacañang was administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman.

A neophyte in congress, Robredo is being eyed as Roxas’ running-mate in 2016.

The formal offer was made a day after another political neophyte eyed for the vice presidential post, Senator Grace Poe, announced that she would be seeking the presidency herself.

Robredo had been thumbing down the idea of running for the country’s second-highest post, insisting that it was “too soon” for her. At most, Robredo said in previous interviews, she was open to running for senator.

The Camarines Sur representative’s daughters – Aika, Patricia, and Jillian – are also against a vice presidential run in 2016.

Maganda ang usapan. ‘Yung mga palaisipin, ibinahagi sa atin ni Leni; at ‘yung tungkol naman doon, huwag natin kalimutan, ano, parang… Kung tutuusin nga, parang nanay ko, ‘di ba? Housewife, biglang na-thrust na lider ng oposisyon noong pinaslang ang aking ama, si Leni parang ganoon din. Inilalayo ni Jesse noong araw ang kanyang pamilya sa buhay publiko. Siya ang talagang nakalantad,” said Aquino, when asked about the meeting.

(It was a good discussion. Leni shared the considerations. And let’s not forget that if you think about it, she’s like my mother [the late former president Cory Aquino], a housewife who suddenly became leader of the opposition when my father [the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr] was killed. Leni was like her. [The late interior secretary] Jesse Robredo shielded the family from a public life. Only he was the public figure.)

Big leap

Robredo is the widow of the late Jesse Robredo, an LP stalwart. Prior to running for Congress, Robredo was a lawyer who took on mostly pro bono cases.

Aquino said he understood the hesitation of Robredo and her daughters, given the “leap” from a planned Senate run to a possible bid for the vice presidency.

Wala pang tapos na usapan. Mag-uusap kami ulit, pero maganda ‘yung parang clearing the air, ano. ‘Yung expectation-settings, lahat, nandoon nailagay, bakit kami pabor na siya ang maging vice president natin, et cetera,” added Aquino.

(The discussions aren’t over yet. We’ll be speaking again but it’s good that we’ve cleared the air. Expectation-settings, everything will be laid out, why we want her to be our vice president, etc.)

Robredo, said Aquino, had a “very positive” image, that of a politician who is definitely not “trapo (traditional politician).”

The President’s words echo that of his allies in the party, who see Robredo as an ideal running-mate of Roxas in a campaign hinged on the promise of “Daang Matuwid” or the current administration’s anti-corruption, good governance, and transparency platform.

Robredo is no stranger to clamor from different groups – political or otherwise – to run for public office. When Jesse Robredo, then mayor of Naga, hit the 3-term limit, there were calls for his wife to run for mayor too – a practice common in Philippine politics.

The Robredos then refused to give in to pressure, fielding local party mates for mayor instead.

Asked why Leni Robredo would not be forced into running for mayor then, Jesse Robredo said: “May sariling buhay ang misis ko. Hindi ’yan asawa lang ng mayor. Alam niya ang gusto niyang gawin (My wife has her own life. She’s not just the wife of the mayor. She knows what she wants to do).” – Rappler.com

Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.