[OPINION] Keep hope alive: An open letter to VP Leni Robredo

Dear VP Leni,

If there is one reason why I would urge you to run in 2022, I can boil it down to four words: “to keep hope alive!”

I still recall you in class nearly 40 years ago: shy, bright, attentive, but most of all, shy. You came from the province, graduating from Colegio de Sta Isabel in Naga, and had just moved into the UP Diliman campus at the height of martial law, then still a teenager.

There is one memory that stands out in my mind. I remember sharing with the class the call of the late statesman Jose “Pepe” Diokno in the aftermath of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination. In response to Marcos’ threat of arrest whenever five or more people congregated in public, he urged citizens to precisely take a stand. At the university, we were invited to gather at the steps of the iconic Arts and Science Building. Gather then, we did!

You were a source of hope then

Those were game-changing moments in your life, since soon after graduation you decided to go back to your province and work in public service for our people. Among your first chosen tasks was to serve as an advocate for those who needed legal services in the non-governmental organization Saligan. Even then, you were a source of hope.

Years later, at the Office of the Vice President, you organized programs to lift the lot of those on the margins of society through “Angat Buhay,” and you promoted the “Istorya ng Pagasa” that identified people with stories that inspired hope in others, like that of the environmentalist-fisherman Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon of Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay in Mindanao, who earned the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his work to improve the lot of his fishing community.

The last thing we can afford to surrender is hope

Today, as we battle the pandemic or as we learn to live with this dire and dreadful reality, the last thing we can afford to surrender is hope.  

And, precisely because of your evidence-based approach to tackling issues and your reliance on sound data, you have been able to accompany our health workers and our people who seem to despair.  You provided us with organized, systematic, and science-based approaches in dealing with the health crisis in our midst.  

Once again, you have provided hope in your striving to bring about healing for those who most need it and for our frontliners who at times are besieged beyond their capacities.

Today, as we confront hunger brought about by the loss of livelihoods and the growing poverty and inequality in our midst, your training as an economist again provides you with the capacity to deal with the intricacies of the national budget and identify priorities to ensure that our economy works for all – particularly the disadvantaged. 

It is hope that you provide as you strive to make things happen, though resources are scarce. 

Inspiring the next generation

Today, as we confront the challenge or the seeming inability of students, teachers, and parents to ensure high quality education by means of blended learning from face-to-classes or online learning if and whenever possible, you have focused your attention on accompanying the learning journey of young minds.  

You have by your diverse efforts attempted to inspire a generation: not to give up, though we have lost precious hours in difficult learning situations.  You have not tired of providing support combined with hope, in such short supply in our embattled educational system.

'To give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds.'

Dear VP Leni, I realize the personal sacrifices it must entail to deprive yourself of precious time with your three daughters, particularly now that their father is gone; or, to deprive yourself of the quiet time that you deserve, to pursue a life that seemed to have been cut short with the passing of your late beloved Jesse.  

But precisely because of Jesse’s passion to serve his people, I believe that it would be fitting to repeat the prayer that you shared with your friends on the day that you decided to run as VP in late 2015: “to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds.”

'Handa na ako! Kayo?'

People from different walks of life have invested their dreams in urging you to consider offering yourself as an alternative in 2022.

Health workers, lawyers, teachers, students, religious and business leaders, community groups, regional and provincial organizations, individuals have come together in diverse ways to urge you to consider a run in 2022.  

Many of us have offered to volunteer our time and energy to support your quest. Because people refuse to surrender their hopes, they have entrusted their hope in you. 

My prayer is that when all is said and done, you will utter four words that for many of us will be an invitation to give it all we’ve got: “Handa na ako! Kayo?”

From one of your teachers, once upon a time, 

Prof Ed Garcia
8 September 2021 

– Rappler.com

Professor Ed Garcia is one of the framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, and author of Servant Leader: Leni Robredo, 2020.

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