Leni Robredo

[OPINION | Newspoint] The living ghost of Leni Robredo

Vergel O. Santos
[OPINION | Newspoint] The living ghost of Leni Robredo

Alejandro Edoria

'Operating on her own, with neither blessing nor resources from the national government, Robredo has managed yet to show up the well-funded, well-equipped "czars" Duterte enlisted from among the newly retired military generals'

Leni Robredo cannot help it, not even with the best of intentions. The Duterte regime is simply so allergic to her it is made crazy by just about anything she says and does. In fact, the condition has deteriorated so badly even an imagined Robredo stimulus can trigger it.

Which is precisely the case here: In the wake of the last typhoon, President Duterte and 3 of his Cabinet men – Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque – made a stink about her riding a military cargo plane, an unclassy, uncomfortable C-130, to accompany life-giving aid for typhoon victims. And what grievous wrong did they see with it?

“Freeloading!” – that’s what.

What makes the whole affair all the more ridiculous is that the ride Robredo supposedly hitched did not happen at all. Indeed, a deeper collective disorder, a sort of manic syndrome, would seem to underlie all this. Duterte and his backup trio losing sight of the all too obvious humanitarian purpose of the flight and, rather, imagining Robredo on it – it’s decidedly sick.

And the aberration can only get worse. A hallucinated Robredo is likely to visit Duterte oftener and oftener and give him a growing sense of haunting reality as his term draws to a close. He has only about a year and a half left of his 6 years; afterwards, he loses his immunity from suits and will have to answer for the trail of corruption, oppression, and murder that he leaves. To escape accountability, he needs a surrogate for a successor.

Well, Robredo definitely cannot be it, and Duterte has known that from the start; in fact, she has made him feel progressively insecure in his presidency, which is perfectly understandable from his aberrant perspective.

Robredo is a singular political phenomenon. Until the death in a plane crash, in 2012, of her husband, Jesse, himself a rising star in national politics, she had had no national profile. She was drafted for vice president in the 2016 elections, as her first term in Congress as her home district’s representative was ending. With a near-zero awareness among the nation’s voters, she had 90 campaign days to get herself known enough to become a contender. But, being a lawyer, economist, and social activist, she certainly had, for credentials, more than enough going for her.

From fifth and last place, she shot through the rankings and beat the consistent front runner, Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr, son of the late dictator idolized by Duterte and the Vice President he actually preferred to his own running mate.

Doubtless jolted by Robredo’s prodigious showing, Duterte took prompt preemptive steps; he marginalized her, starved her of budget, and loosed his army of trolls on her. Marcos, for his part, took her to the electoral tribunal to dispute her victory; his case, evidently unwinnable, is being dragged out.

Again, they miscalculated; they in fact missed everything, no surprise, really, since these are qualities alien to them: her identification with every noble cause, her feel for public service, her dedication to duty, her natural instincts for leadership, with charisma to go with it; her frugality, which, coupled with practical and improvisatory skills, allowed her to accomplish things at huge bargains and, yes, without resorting to freeloading; the youthful energy that makes for her staying power, her quick mind, decisiveness, and facility of expression; her utter lack of pretense. There’s a whole lot more – a whole lot to further cut down to size many a pretender to leadership in Philippine politics.

Recalling her electoral run, those qualities have emerged over time – from obscurity. In the beginning, she reached out to the long-neglected poor of the remote islands, delivering simple services like water from artesian wells, power from generators of modest make and capacity, small fishing boats designed to double as transport, particularly for pupils who used to trek to school and back; she also brought them school supplies.

When disaster struck she was there, likely the first from the national government bringing aid. Thus, when the deadly novel coronavirus and the series of powerful storms arrived, this year, overlapping, reinforcing each other’s malign power, she plunged herself in well practiced. 

Operating on her own, with neither blessing nor resources from the national government, Robredo has managed yet to show up the well-funded, well-equipped “czars” Duterte enlisted from among the newly retired military generals. 

Apparently knowing no better, Duterte sent them to the wrong war. Consequently, the Philippines takes the distinction for the highest rates of coronavirus deaths and infections in Asia. Meanwhile, devastation, hunger, and death lie around the paths beaten by the typhoons, a further testament to official ineptitude and neglect. 

No wonder the prevalent sense that donors can trust Vice President Leni Robredo’s office more with their aid than any other government office or institution. No wonder, too, the Duterte regime is hallucinating Robredo, seeing her, hearing her in its crazed head. – Rappler.com