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MANILA, Philippines – Leni Robredo once worked as a lawyer for indigent groups before she entered the world of politics. Years later, the same sectors she once worked with – farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous peoples, among others – are now backing Robredo in her bid for the vice presidency.
"Hindi ko inaasahan na darating ang panahon na sila na ang tumutulong sa akin," the Liberal Party's vice presidential candidate said, during a send-off program organized by volunteers and supporters at the Quezon Memorial Circle on Friday, May 6 – just 3 days before election day.
(I did not expect the time would come that they would be the ones helping me.)
Robredo was joined onstage by leaders from various sectors: the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, the youth, senior citizens' groups, persons with disabilities, and the urban poor.
Among those backing Robredo are the Sumilao farmers, who marched for 19 days from Bukidnon to Manila to support Robredo's candidacy.
It was their way of thanking the Camarines Sur representative for championing their cause nearly 10 years ago, when they launched their historic march in 2007.
The farmers again repeated their march, meeting Robredo in Naga last month, and her daughter Tricia earlier this week in Manila, in a meeting that moved the younger Robredo to tears.
On Friday afternoon, the farmers met with Robredo and her standard-bearer, Manuel Roxas II, at the Ateneo de Manila University. The farmers then proceeded to the University of the Philippines-Diliman, where they joined other supporters in walking all the way to the Quezon Memorial Circle.
But supporters hope to take Robredo further – all the way to the vice presidential post.
"Leni, hinatid mo kami noon. Hayaan mong kami naman ang maghatid sa'yo ngayon," one of the farmers said, drawing cheers from the yellow-clad crowd.
(Leni, you marched with us before. Now, allow us to be the ones to march you on.)
But for her supporters, a Robredo vice presidency would mean one where the government would listen to the needs of the marginalized. That has been a recurring theme in Robredo's campaign speeches, which hinges on bringing progress to those in the fringes. (READ: Sumilao farmers: 2016 polls also a fight for a better future)
To thank the sectors for their send-off and support, Robredo renewed her vow to be their voice in government.
"Kapag ako pinalad, ako ang magiging boses ninyo sa pamahalaan...Sisiguruhin ko na ang pamahalaan ay magiging bukas na makinig sa boses ninyo," she said.
(If I am fortunate enough to win, I will become your voice in the government...I will ensure that the government will listen to your concerns.)
She also promised to continue fighting for the groups' various advocacies.
"Sa bawat minuto na ibibigay sa akin para manilbihan, iisipin ko ang laban ninyong lahat," she said.
(For every minute that I am given the chance to serve, I will keep in mind all of your struggles for a better life.) – Rappler.com