Leni Robredo’s campaign anchors on youth, volunteers
Supporters of the administration's vice presidential bet have just opened a volunteer center located in Katipunan Avenue, near major schools

TSINELAS VOLUNTEER CENTER. Liberal Party's Representative Leni Robredo opens her support center with presidential sister Viel Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – She’s still far from being the poll front runner in the vice presidential race but supporters of administration vice presidential bet Camarines Sur Representative Leni Robredo are counting on a sector that may her give that crucial boost: the youth.

“[In an] era of authenticity, young people don’t like fake or posers. I think Leni is the most authentic among the vice presidents and I think that’s appealing to young voters and voters who are looking for something real,” Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV told Rappler in a mix of English and Filipino.

Aquino, Robredo’s campaign manager, recognized the need to step up efforts to introduce to voters the Bicolana lawmaker, who was relatively unknown until her husband, then interior secretary Jesse Robredo, died in a plane crash in 2012.

“We are [working] double time, triple time, quadruple time. Talagang hinahabol namin (We are trying to catch up) – more volunteers, more support. And you know we really need to introduce her to the general populace,” he said the sidelines of the launch of Robredo’s volunteer center on Friday, November 27.

The results of a Pulse Asia Research Incorporated survey conducted in September, when Robredo was not yet the LP’s official vice presidential bet, showed her ranked 10th among potential vice president candidates, with only 3% of voters’ preference.

Youth power

Aquino believed that Robredo’s appeal to the youth that may propel her to rank higher. Party-mates have also cited the “endorsement power” of President Benigno Aquino III, who continues to enjoy good public approval numbers as he nears the end of his term.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) earlier said the youth vote – powered by 20 million registered voters aged 18-35 years old – is the “key to 2016 victory.”

“The youth vote is very significant. Those age from 18 to 35 comprise about 37 percent of the entire electorate,” Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said in an interview on ANC in October.

“Put it in context. In 2010, President Aquino won with 15.8 million votes. So technically, if 75% of the youth vote choose a particular candidate, that candidate will probably win,” Bautista said.

SELFIE. How far will youth vote take Robredo?

Tsinelas volunteers

Incidentally, the vice presidential candidate’s newly opened volunteer center is strategically placed in Katipunan Avenue, near major schools: the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and Miriam College.

Launched on Friday evening, the Tsinelas Volunteers Center will serve as a hub for the “youth who wants to help out in the campaign later on,” Robredo’s daughter, Aika, said in an interview with Rappler before the launch.

Named after the trademark “tsinelas (rubber slippers) leadership” of the late Jesse Robredo, the facility was set up by her supporters coming from the youth, the women’s sector, and Batch ’77 of the Ateneo de Manila University High School. 

TSINELAS. The regular man's footwear has been an icon of both spouses of Liberal Party's standard bearers Mar Roxas and Representative Leni Robredo.

In an interview with reporters, Robredo said she was counting on the help of volunteers to power her campaign.

Nag-aanchor talaga ako sa volunteers. Pumasok ako sa race na walang-wala akong resources. Wala akong tao, hindi naman ako nakapaghanda so talaga ‘yung sa akin, ‘yung volunteers talaga ‘yung core ng kampanya,” she said.

(I am relying on volunteers. I entered this race with barely any resources. I don’t have manpower, I haven’t even prepared, so the volunteers are really at the core of my campaign.)

Robredo had previously said she would also rely on grassroots campaigning in her bid for the vice presidency – the same scheme she used in her congressional run in 2013, when she won over the bet of a powerful political clan despite limited resources. (READ: Leni Robredo hopes to repeat victory with little campaign funds)

Also present during the launch were Liberal Party stalwart Quezon City Third District Representative Jorge Banal, and presidential sister Viel Aquino-Dee.

Asked about Dee’s role in the campaign, Robredo answered: “Hindi naman namin napag-usapan. Ang alam ko lang, kahit anong oras puwede namin siyang puntahan. Marami naman kasing klaseng suporta.”   

(We haven’t talked about it. But all I know is we can approach her anytime because there are many forms of support.) –

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