MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo’s unwavering ability to weather her challenges – personal or political – marks her “quiet strength” as the lone female in the 2022 presidential race, her eldest daughter Aika said.
“Tingin ko po napaka-importante o napakahalaga ’yung kanyang quiet strength na tingin ko present sa, especially present sa lahat ng kababaihan, sa lahat ng nanay,” said the eldest Robredo in a media forum of the 1Sambayan opposition coalition on Thursday, March 3.
(I think the quiet strength that is especially present in all women, all mothers is very important.)
Aika joined 1Sambayan convenors Brother Armin Luistro and former Commission on Audit commissioner Heidi Mendoza in providing testimonies on Robredo’s “huwarang (model)” leadership as the nation commemorated Women’s Month.
A video message from reelectionist Senator Leila de Lima, who remains in jail over what she has described as trumped-up drug charges against her, was also played during the forum.
Aika, who chairs the Jesse M. Robredo Foundation named after her late father, said that her mother’s ability to remain calm in stressful times is one that has been honed from experience.
It was in 2012 when Robredo’s husband Jesse, former Naga City mayor turned interior and local government chief, died in a tragic plane crash. While the tragedy left Robredo and her daughters heartbroken, this became the pivotal moment for the women’s rights advocate to respond to calls for her to seek public office.
Aika said all these trials helped shape her mother’s decisive leadership style, strengthened by her ability to show up and step up even in times of crises. This is now one of the main themes of the Robredo campaign, in an election where critics claim she is weak just because she is a woman.
Aika also said that as a leader and a parent, her mother Leni knows where her true priorities lie.
“Alam niya kung saan ‘yung lugar niya. Importante iyon lalo na sa isang lider, na alam mo ‘yung kailan ka nasa background lang at alam mo kung kailan ‘yung oras na kailangan ikaw naman ang nasa sentro,” she said.
(She knows her place. That’s important in a leader, that you know when to be in the background and when to be at the center of things.)
A chew toy for trolls, misogynists
During the same forum, 1Sambayan convenor Luistro talked about his admiration for Robredo. He shared how Robredo would often work on her speeches late into the night – even after spending hours on the campaign trail.
“Saan siya kumukuha ng energy (Where does she get her energy)?” Luistro wondered.
Mendoza also praised Robredo for her promise to replace old and dirty politics with a “matino at mahusay” or a clean and honest government. It’s a homage to the tsinelas leadership that Jesse was known for.
Meanwhile, De Lima delivered a video message pledging support for Robredo, who has included De Lima in her senatorial ticket. The senator vowed to continue upholding the rights of women even during tough times.
“Sapagkat ang maging babae sa panahon ng ligalig, ay maging babaeng lumalaban (Because being a woman in a time of upheaval is to be a woman who fights),” said De Lima.
Long before she was vice president, Robredo has been a female rights advocate. She helped represent victims of domestic violence as a lawyer affiliated with the Naga chapter of Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Pang Legal.
The lone female presidential candidate in the 2022 polls had also founded Lakas ng Kababaihan ng Naga, was the past president of the Naga City Council for Women, and was a member of Bantay Familia and the Federacion International de Abogado.
She also worked with the Public Attorney’s Office.
But when she took office as a Vice President in 2016, Robredo had to endure insults from President Rodrigo Duterte and other critics who repeatedly belittled her capability to lead.
To fight back against misogyny in leadership, Robredo has urged men to speak up and defend women’s rights. She has also publicly called out Duterte for being a misogynist in 2020, when he insinuated that she did not engage in relief efforts for typhoon victims.
There is now a growing number of former government officials, groups, and other sectors backing Robredo for president. In early February, 76 female local government officials endorsed Robredo, citing her “incorruptible and compassionate” leadership. – Sabrina Joyce Go/Rappler
Sabrina Joyce Go, a Rappler intern, is a fourth year international studies major from De La Salle University. This article was reviewed by a Rappler reporter and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s internship program here.