2022 Philippine Elections

#LeniWalangAatrasan: When Robredo faced a critic in DZRH-Manila Times panel

Mara Cepeda
#LeniWalangAatrasan: When Robredo faced a critic in DZRH-Manila Times panel

Vice President Leni Robredo on Thursday, February 3, signed a covenant with Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) outlining their shared vision for the reform of the electricity sector in the country. Photo by Charlie Villegas/OVP

Photo by Charlie Villegas/OVP

Vice President Leni Robredo stands her ground as she faced an all-male panel

Vice President Leni Robredo showed the ultimate grace under pressure as she stood in front of one of her harshest critics who was out to test her mettle as the sole female aspirant in the 2022 presidential race. 

Wearing a suit and face mask in her signature pink color, Robredo did not bat an eye even as university professor Antonio Contreras and the rest of the all-male panel from DZRH and the Manila Times grilled her for over two and a half hours on Wednesday, February 2. 

Person, Human, Hand

It was a much anticipated interview, after Contreras initially claimed Robredo declined their invitation. It turned out to be just a mere scheduling issue. Robredo has always been game to face anyone – even potentially hostile interviewees.  

Contreras is a known critic of Robredo. In social media conversations and online forums, users claim that this is due to an alleged family feud in their home province.

In the hypothetical scenarios portion of the interview, Contreras asked Robredo what the Philippine president should do if tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalated into war. 

Robredo dropped data off the bat, saying her first response would be securing the 342 Filipinos currently living in Ukraine.

She then went on to elaborate on her foreign policy, comparing the conflict between the two Eastern European countries with that of the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea. 

The quick-thinking Robredo said the Philippines can learn much from Ukraine, a small country that has been harnessing its strong alliances with other nations to stand up to a world superpower like Russia. 

It was not surprising either when it was Contreras who later asked Robredo about her Japanese coat photo and the wildly bashed video of her doing the hadouken, a special attack move popularized by Capcom’s Street Fighter game.

For Robredo, the criticisms she had to face over these online content are just a “small price to pay” for all the hard work her “Kakampinks” have been pouring into her bottom-up, volunteer-driven people’s campaign.

“Halimbawa ‘yung hadouken, ano ‘yun, request siya ng mga volunteers na mga Tiktokers. Alam ko na when I did it, alam ko na may mga hindi matutuwa. Pero sa akin small price to pay siya. Small price to pay siya doon sa joy na maibibigay ko doon sa nagre-request na grabe ‘yung sinasakripisyo para makatulong lang sa amin,” said Robredo.

(For example, the hadouken video was a request of our Tiktoker volunteers. I know when I did it that there would be people who would be upset with it. But, for me, that’s a small price to pay. That’s a small price to pay for the joy I can give to all those making requests and sacrifices to help us.)

And when Contreras forced Robredo to answer a hypothetical question on how she would promote her rival, the late dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the duly-elected Vice President did not flinch. 

“Pinakamahirap yata iyan na sagot. Na matagal na siya sa pulitika?” Robredo said. 

(That’s perhaps the hardest question to answer. That he has been in politics a long time?)

Asked if she would ever unify with Marcos, Robredo said no – not when the dictator’s family continues to revise history and does not apologize for the sins of Martial Law. 

Netizens applauded Robredo for her interview performance, with the hashtag #LeniWalangAatarasan trending on Twitter. 

The Vice President was praised for standing her ground even amid the male panelists’ sexist side comments and questions about her looks and love life. 

Even Contreras himself had acknowledge how prepared Robredo was for the interview, though he also thought she played it too safe and had winding answers.

“Litaw ang kahandaan ni Leni sa interview. Talagang kitang-kita ang kanyang pinalawak na kaalaman sa maraming bagay…. Maganda ang performance ni Leni,” said the outspoken Robredo critic. 

(Leni’s readiness was obvious during the interview. Her vast knowledge on many things was clear…. Leni had a good performance.)

That day inside the DZRH compound, Robredo entered the lion’s den. She came out unscathed and even stronger than before. – Rappler.com

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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.