MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo on Saturday, July 21, called for the need for "competent and empowering leaders" who would unite and inspire rather than sow division and strike fear in the people they govern.
The Vice President made the call at the Young Professionals Summit at the De La Salle University in Taft, in a speech with apparent allusions to President Rodrigo Duterte and his strongman style of leadership that stifles dissent.
"The world offers us so many definitions of what it means to be a good leader. But for me, a good leader inspires, empowers, and listens. A great leader works harder than anyone and brings people together, rather than sows division. A competent leader solves problems rather than makes them," Robredo said.
"Most of all, a deserving leader helps people catch his or her vision for a bright future, and delivers promises for that future to happen sooner, rather than later," she added.
Robredo shared stories to illustrate the kind of leaders the country needs, among them, about Sabrina Ongkiko who gave up medical school to become a public school teacher in Culiat Elementary School in Quezon City; and Mark Anthony Talibutab, a mountaineer who came across poor communities during his treks and decided to help them with learning sessions for children.
She also shared how her flagship anti-poverty program Angat Buhay adopted Siayan town in Zamboanga del Norte, and through a partner foundation provided "school boats" that ferried students from remote islands. They also helped build a dormitory for students who had to travel long distances.
"More than a display of brute force and the use of strong language, we need leaders who will reach out and be one with the last, the lost, and the least of us," the Vice President said, in apparent reference to Duterte's tough guy antics that has drawn criticism at home and abroad.
"We need leaders who are empowering and inspiring, who bring out the best in people, and help them become great leaders as well. They need to be courageous, so that they are not threatened by the act of listening, that they are not offended even by dissent," Robredo added, obviously alluding to Duterte's intolerance to criticism.
Question of leadership
In her speech, the Vice President also questioned how some equate "great" leadership with instilling fear in people to follow the law.
"Some say to be a great leader, you must instill fear in people. Strongmen politics is now a very hot topic all over the world. Can it really bring about change? Or will it bring us back to those dark days of abuse, rejection of the rule of law, and societal decay?" she asked.
Earlier this week, former US president Barack Obama warned of "strongman politics" after US President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Robredo said that during these "extraordinary times...promises now mean nothing. More so lives, freedom, and the rule of law."
She gave her personal view on "competent and empowering leadership" which, she said, should not be "about demanding obedience by usurping all forms of power."
"It is about inspiring trust and confidence in such a way that you do not ever have to demand obedience. It is not about being above the rules; it is about proving to everyone that the rule of law applies to all," she said.
"True leadership demands that power be shared with ordinary people; not clutched in the hands of a few. True leadership employs empathy and inspiration; not fear and hopelessness. That is the kind of leadership that builds a strong nation," the Vice President added.
Robredo also assured the young professionals that they have nothing to fear when siding with the truth.
"Even when you are on the side of truth and inclusivity, you will meet people who will doubt your intentions and question your ways. When that time comes, do not budge. Fight, resist, do not conform," she said.