2022 PH presidential race

Iron fist trumps a mother? Robredo says courage knows no gender

Mara Cepeda
Iron fist trumps a mother? Robredo says courage knows no gender

Vice President Leni Robredo attended the u2018Getting to Know Your Candidate: Meet and Greet with Leniu2019 hosted by Saint Louis School in Baguio City on Tuesday, 07, December 2021. VP Leni was welcomed by nuns and priests from various churches, religious organizations, Istorya ng Pag-asa (INP) champions, and other groups wearing pink and white face masks. She was also handed several pink roses as she entered the auditorium. In a short message, VP Leni expressed the important role of the religious sector in pushing for reforms in governance. She recalled that when her late husband, Jesse Robredo, was mayor of Naga City, he asked help from Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi and Father Joe Cruz in organizing the different sectors and in encouraging them to take part in governance. It was then that the Peopleu2019s Council was formed, composed of vendors, farmers, women, and other marginalized groups. Photo by OVP

OVP

'Kung katapangan lang naman 'yung pag-uusapan, in many stages of my life, pinakita ko ito,' says Vice President Leni Robredo in the Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo said all her trials prove that courage knows no gender, as she sought to refute perceptions that her motherly image is no match to an iron fist.

Broadcast journalist Jessica Soho asked Robredo in an interview that aired on Saturday, January 22, to react to comments that the Philippines needs an iron-fisted leader and not a mother like her.

Robredo, who projects a firm yet compassionate image, is the antithesis of the tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte, who has repeatedly belittled the Vice President’s capability to lead just because she is a woman. 

During the Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews, Robredo said if people would instead define leading with an iron fist as a leader being brave and courageous, then she has done this time and time again.

“Kung katapangan lang naman ‘yung pag-uusapan, Jessica, in many stages of my life, pinakita ko ito…. So kung katapangan lang naman, hindi ito nakikita sa gender. Nakikita ito kung paano ka nagdedesisyon sa maraming aspekto ng Iyong buhay,” said the Vice President. 

(If we’re going to talk about courage, Jessica, in many stages of my life, I have shown this…. So if we are going to talk about courage, it’s not about gender. We can see this based on how a person decides on many aspects of her life.)

She recalled her come-from-behind election victories in 2013 and 2016, and the hostilities she had to endure under the Duterte regime. 

Robredo mentioned the tragic plane crash on August 18, 2012, that killed her husband, longtime Naga City mayor turned interior and local government chief Jesse Robredo. This fateful day eventually thrust her into the national political spotlight. 

Though Robredo and her daughters Aika, Tricia, and Jillian were still mourning Jesse’s passing, she responded to Bicolanos’ calls for her seek the congressional seat for Camarines Sur’s 3rd District in the 2013 polls. 

It was a tough battle for Robredo, a development worker and alternative lawyer who had to face the well-entrenched Villafuerte political dynasty in the province. Yet Robredo managed to defeat the family matriarch Nelly Villafuerte to become congresswoman. 

Three years later, Robredo was once again the underdog in the six-way vice presidential race that saw her slugging it out with incumbent male senators in 2016. 

Robredo said in the VP debates then that the last man standing is a woman – and she made it happen, beating all the odds and becoming the second highest official in the land. 

The Vice President’s trials did not end there. In 2016, President Duterte initially appointed her as his housing czar, only for him to ease her out of Cabinet meetings after she criticized his abusive policies like his bloody drug war. 

Robredo resigned in December 2016, eventually becoming the face of the opposition movement against Duterte. 

Fast forward to November 2019, a spiteful Duterte appointed Robredo as co-chair of the anti-drugs body after she said the government’s flagship campaign has to be “tweaked” because it is “not working.”

The President, however, fired Robredo from the post 18 days after she accepted the job, saying he could not trust her. Robredo rated Duterte’s drug war “1 over 100,” irking the President even more.

Robredo plays the long game for 2022

Robredo plays the long game for 2022
‘Public servant first’

The Duterte machinery has also spent the past five years discrediting Robredo, one of the primary targets of the most vicious attacks and lies by online trolls and government propagandists.

Robredo herself considers all the disinformation and black propaganda against her among the biggest challenges faced by her presidential campaign. 

Despite all of these, Robredo has stood firm. 

When she declared her bid for the presidency in October 2021, Robredo said she wants to put an end to the “old, rotten politics” that has robbed ordinary Filipinos of the power to bring about change themselves.

“Jessica, maigsi yung aking panunungkulan sa pulitika, pero long before I became a politician, I was already a public servant… And para sa akin, ito ‘yung mahalaga. Mahalaga na ‘yung nakaupo ay ‘yung puso ‘nya ay nasa pagsilbi talaga sa pinakamahihirap,” Robredo said. 

(Jessica, my stint in politics may be short, but long before I became a politician, I was already a public servant… And for me, this is what is important. It’s important for the person in power to have a heart in the service of the poor.)

Iron fist trumps a mother? Robredo says courage knows no gender
Pacman is Robredo’s 2nd choice

Facing Soho on Saturday, Robredo asserted she is ready for the presidency. 

But asked to briefly answer who among her opponents she would vote for president if not herself, Robredo picked Senator Manny Pacquiao. 

“Manny Pacquiao. Kilala ko siya. Alam ko na napakasinsero niyang tao (I know him. I know that he is a very sincere person),” Robredo said.

This is not a surprising choice, as Pacquiao had been the most willing to sit down with the Vice President when she attempted to forge a united opposition ahead of the 2022 elections. Unity talks, however, fell through.

Robredo was the sole female among the five leading presidential bets who accepted the invitation to the GMA News interviews. The others in attendance were senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.

Survey front runner Marcos, Robredo’s bitter rival whom she defeated in the 2016 vice presidential contest, was a no-show– Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.