2022 Philippine Elections

Robredo on deciding on 2022 presidential run: What would Jesse do?

Mara Cepeda
Robredo on deciding on 2022 presidential run: What would Jesse do?

WHAT WOULD JESSE DO? Vice President Leni Robredo's Facebook profile photo is a photo of her with her late husband, ex-DILG chief Jesse Robredo

Vice President Leni Robredo's Facebook account

Vice President Leni Robredo also says that since the death of former president Noynoy Aquino, there have been mounting calls for the return of good governance in the country

Vice President Leni Robredo is seeking guidance from her late husband, former Naga City mayor turned interior and local government chief Jesse Robredo, as she discerns her potential presidential run in the 2022 elections

Speaking to Rappler on Friday, September 3, the Philippine opposition leader shared that in all decisions she makes in life – whether big or small, in politics or in raising their three daughters – Robredo often asks herself what Jesse would have done. 

Robredo said she is doing the same thing now that her allies, supporters, and even her critics are waiting for her decision on the 2022 polls. 

“In small things and in big things, lagi akong humihingi sa kaniya ng gabay; hindi lang ito sa desisyon ng pag-presidente…. Lahat hinihingi ko iyong guidance kasi wala naman ako dito kung hindi siya nawala eh,” Robredo said.

(In small things and in big things, I always turn to him for guidance; this isn’t just about the decision to run for president…. I ask him for guidance because I wouldn’t be here if he didn’t pass away.)

“So laging ganoon ako na, ‘If he were here, what would have he decided on?’ Lagi siyang consideration before I make any decision,” the Vice President added. 

(So it has always been like that. I ask myself, “If he were here, what would have he decided on?” That’s always a consideration before I make any decision.)

Robredo on deciding on 2022 presidential run: What would Jesse do?

Robredo never dreamed of joining politics, let alone becoming the second-highest official in the country. 

She was the pro-bono human rights lawyer who preferred to work with communities and a wife cheering on the sidelines as her husband Jesse made pioneering reforms in their hometown Naga City in Camarines Sur. 

Even when supporters would clamor for Robredo to take over every time Jesse hit his term limit as mayor, she would refuse. 

But when Jesse died on August 18, 2012, after his plane crashed off the coast of Masbate, his death thrust his wife into the political spotlight. 

Robredo first slayed the well-entrenched Villafuerte political dynasty in the 2013 congressional race in Camarines Sur’s 3rd district. And in 2016, Robredo responded to calls for her to run as vice president, besting five other male incumbent senators for the post. 

Fast forward five years later, Robredo is being called by her allies and supporters to join what may well be the toughest fight in her life: the race for Malacañang in 2022. 

It’s a tough decision to make for the Vice President, who continues to lag behind in preelection surveys despite drawing praise for her coronavirus pandemic relief programs. 

Robredo believes only a united opposition stands to win against President Rodrigo Duterte’s anointed one in 2022.

The stakes are so high that Robredo is willing to entertain the possibility that the best candidate may not be her.

Despite her dismal numbers, however, Robredo is still the most viable standard-bearer for opposition forces in 2022. 

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On continuing PNoy’s legacy of good governance

Calls for Robredo to seek the presidency have also been mounting in the wake of the death of her Liberal Party ally, the late former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

This is not lost on the Vice President, who acknowledged the people’s yearning for the return of “decent governance” as they remember Aquino’s anti-corruption drive when he was still commander-in-chief. 

“Nakikita ko iyong posts ng mga tao na maraming nagising na, ‘Gusto pala namin. Gusto pala namin iyong malinis, disente, seryoso – seryoso na klaseng leadership.’’So iyon iyong nakita ko after his death,” Robredo said. 

(I have seen the posts of people who are realizing that, “We want this. We want clean, decent, and serious – a serious kind of leadership.” So that’s what I saw after his death.)

But would she push for decency and transparency if she runs for president? It’s a no-brainer for Robredo.

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The Vice President said she has strived to always get the highest audit rating from the Commission on Audit. She also pushed to professionalize her office to obtain an ISO certification – proof that processes are streamlined and above-board. 

“Kahit noong nasa Congress ako, kahit noong VP ako, iyon na talaga iyong sinisiguro ko…iyong malinis na pamamahala. So iyong sa akin, I don’t need to be president para ipakita iyon, kasi kahit…napakaliit lang iyong role, dapat nandoon parati iyong aspiration dahil that’s the least you can do para sa taong pinaninilbihan natin,” Robredo said. 

(Even when I was still in Congress, even when I became VP, that has always been my goal…and that is good governance. So for me, I don’t need to be president to show that, because even in the tiniest role in the bureaucracy, that should always be the aspiration because it’s the least you can do for the people you serve.)

The 1Sambayan opposition coalition – which has named Robredo as one of its nominees for president – said the standard-bearer it would be endorsing should embody Aquino’s legacy of “honest” governance.

Robredo aims to finalize her decision to run for president within the month of September, or just before the filing of candidacies on October 1 to 8. – 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.