[OPINION | Newspoint] Robredo and Rodrigo

Leni Robredo has good political instincts, not the instincts for posturing and compromise that get votes but the instincts for righteous and reformist leadership that could save lost nations like ours.

A lawyer and an economist as well, Robredo is challenging the operating culture of patronage, in which justice and other beneficence are trickled down, rationed as it were, by wealthy and powerful padrinos; she wants social development directed in reverse, from the ground up, as only natural and logical, with the poor as its first and main beneficiaries, as only fair.

It may seem unfair for Robredo — and absurd, too — to be compared with Rodrigo Duterte, but, having been cast by fate as his vice president, she just has to stand the comparison, if only for the hoped-for enlightenment of those fooled by Duterte or misinformed about her or otherwise requiring to be set straight.

Robredo's role is not an easy one, to be sure, having to stand in fortuitous waiting for the president to die or become incapacitated, but a president who meanwhile turns whatever he touches to ruins with such efficiency his successor, whoever that may be, would not know how to begin to clean up after him.

I did in fact ask Robredo how she might herself approach the job if it fell to her. She just looked at me, then looked sightlessly through me, shaking her head not so vigorously as might indicate a terrified and escapist "Oh, no, not me!", but slowly, indicating what seemed to me a more dutiful if anxious "Well...."

Of course, when I put the question to her, Duterte had done extensive touching all around: more than 20,000 had been killed in his extrajudicial war on drugs; Marawi City had been reduced to ground zero in his bombing war against a gang of separatists, brigands, and terrorist suspects; corruption and profligacy had begun to smell from inside his regime; China had been far gone into its arms buildup in the West Philippine Sea waters he had ceded to it, treasonously, and also had begun to corner official infrastructure and loan contracts on terms so criminal kickbacks cannot but be suspected; and oppositionist Senator Leila de Lima had been in jail longer than a year, awaiting indictment for a crime her persecutors had yet to decide.

In fact, Robredo has been made to wait too long. If anyone deserved to be ousted by the Supreme Court, it was not its own chief justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, but Duterte himself: Long before he ran for president, he had been certified, clinically and judicially, to be psychologically incapacitated — ineligible ab initio, to be consistent to the Latin letter with the exotic legal doctrine quo warranto. But, then, Robredo would have also protested, as she has done in Sereno's case, that quo warranto is inapplicable to the president, deserving as he might be, or any other impeachable official.

In any case, out of respect for law and tradition, though both are not hospitable toward the vice president — a "spare tire", as the comparison goes — Robredo tried to endure not only her nominal accommodation into the Cabinet early in the Duterte regime but also Duterte's lecherous gestures and remarks. Her resignation, doubtless a forced one, as housing secretary and her total alienation in the end from a regime that operates by conspiracy must have brought mutual relief.

Robredo's calm but consistent voice

Her forbearance, another trait inherent in her, has drawn criticisms from anti-Duterte militants, although they probably only felt she could be more rousing in her rhetoric. The point is she has not defaulted on her watchdog duty — unlike Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and the hierarchy of bishops, on whom that duty is no less self-proclaimed as a God-assigned one: They pursue "a policy of critical collaboration" with Emperor Rodrigo, while their flock is fed to his lions.

Amid their silence, Robredo's calm but consistent voice has been dominant. She has not stopped calling on Duterte to end his murderous war on drugs and his "political harassment" of de Lima and set her free. As soon as the guns fell silent in Marawi, she was there reaching out to its orphans and homeless. To Sereno, she has vowed to "do everything . . . to right [the] wrong" done her. And she urges the press to "not be intimidated into toning down [its] reporting."

Lately she has been pressing the Duterte government to file a diplomatic protest with China for its military threats. Being itself the beneficiary of Duterte's treason, China may well be the issue to decide our nation's fortunes.

The British freedom fighter and writer George Orwell (1984, Animal Farm) has an instructive parallel to offer from his own time and country. Although definitely a more benign and normal character than Duterte, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the adamant appeaser of Hitler, had something of a Duterte in him, which should be detectable in Orwell’s depiction of Chamberlain here:     

"[O]pponents professed to see in him a dark and wily schemer, plotting to sell England to Hitler, but it is far likelier that he was merely a stupid old man doing his best according to his very dim lights. It is difficult otherwise to explain the contradictions of his policy, his failure to grasp any of the courses that were open to him. Like the mass of people, he did not want to pay the price either of peace or of war." – Rappler.com