Commentary

Now na!!!

Actions today define our future….
Remembering People Power 35 years ago today

Vice President Leni Robredo facing the press last February 16: 'I think it’s a sin to be....prioritizing my own political plans instead of ensuring that we are able to take care of those who are having a very difficult time these days' (Photo by Jay Ganzon)

The building housing the office of the Vice President continues to receive donations from people and institutions for distribution to those most affected by the pandemic. (Photo by Charlie Villegas, taken last year)

When the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) announced last February 16 the dismissal of the electoral protest filed by former senator Bongbong Marcos vs. Vice President Leni Robredo, I received many text messages asking or actually suggesting that she now seriously consider the idea of running for the presidency in 2022.  During the press conference she called that day, one of the reporters asked pointedly how her legal victory would affect her political plans for 2022?

Her answer was, “Alam mo parang gusto ko munang namnamin itong araw na ito.  Almost five years din naming hinintay.” (You know what, I like to savor this day first. We’ve waited for this for almost five years.)

Clearly, last Tuesday was not the day for any announcement regarding VP Leni’s political plans for 2022 . Instead, it was again an opportunity for her to rearticulate what preoccupies her mind and heart these days.  In the addendum to her previous answer, she said:

“Again, siyempre paulit-ulit naming sinasabi, pero iyon talaga ang totoo…nakita niyo naman siguro iyong opisina namin ngayon, para pa din kaming bodega…immersed pa din kasi kami sa pang araw-araw na pagtugon sa mga pangangailangan ng mga naapektuhan ng pandemya, na parang kasalanan na politika na iyong isipin ko, na iyong aking political plans ay iyong uunahin at hindi iyong pagsigurado na iyong mga lubos na naghihirap ngayon ay aming maasikaso.”

(The truth is and we’ve said it time and time again…as you can see our office continues to look like a warehouse as we continue to be immersed in the day to day challenge of responding to the needs of those very much affected by the pandemic.  I think it’s a sin to be thinking about politics and prioritizing my own political plans instead of ensuring that we are able to take care of those who are having a very difficult time these days.)

This reiteration of the need to remain focused on the task at hand has been her answer to the persistent question of many whether she will run for the presidency in 2022 or not.  For those who are already searching for an alternative leader they want to support to replace the current leadership, this answer is probably not what they want to hear.  In fact, I have heard some people say that if she is not ready to declare her candidacy, then they will start looking for someone else.  Understandably, they feel the time is ticking and running short for a potential candidate to stage a serious challenge against a candidate backed by a Duterte administration that commands the resources of a very powerful bureaucracy and (if the polls are to believed) an extremely popular presidential endorsement.

I think VP Leni sincerely feels that there are more pressing concerns today than worrying about a presidential bid 

There is no argument that the presidency is the biggest stage for any serious public servant.  I have no reason to doubt that VP Leni knows this as well.  However, I think VP Leni sincerely feels that there are more pressing concerns today than worrying about a presidential bid.  While there will be some who will disagree with her and may even be beginning to doubt her fitness for the highest position in the land, I for my part have learned to trust her instincts and will just trust and follow her lead.

From the time she was thrust into the public eye and throughout her term in office, I have seen nothing but unquestionable courage and commitment to take on the most difficult challenges that came her way.

It started with her decision to take on the request of her party mates to run for the Vice Presidency versus more seasoned and more resource-rich politicians.  This was certainly no easy decision to make for a widow and mother of three young daughters who just lost their father a few years back.

Then there was the decision to take on the housing portfolio offered by the President, despite the hostile working environment she knew she was getting into.  As expected, this charade did not last long when some of the President’s allies could not stand the presence of a woman who continued to call out the President and other members of the Cabinet on issues of abuse and misgovernance.

How can we forget her much shorter stint as chairperson of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD)—a move that surprised not only her most senior advisers but also the closest allies of the President (if not the President himself)?  From day one of her appointment, she wasted no time and called on key agencies and stakeholders and tasked her team to study all the reports submitted by various agencies as well as key informants who suddenly found courage to come forward knowing that they could trust the lady at the helm.  Fearing that she was getting deeper into the truth behind the bloody drug war, key officials and their respective agencies became less cooperative, if not antagonistic.  Realizing how determined and unfazed she was, the President and his allies blinked and decided to just fire her again.

She continued to harness the volunteerism of the citizenry and the generosity of the private sector

Reverting to her initiatives as Vice President, she continued to harness the volunteerism of the citizenry and the generosity of the private sector.  Together, they reached the most unreachable communities and aided the most neglected.  Her quick and effective response at the onset of the pandemic—to provide access to safe transportation, temporary living quarters, protective gear and food packs needed by medical frontliners and key government workers tasked to put order in the emerging chaos—was unprecedented.  With no prodding from anyone, she took on the responsibilities which were expected from other Cabinet secretaries and their line agencies with much larger budgets.

I can go on and on with the other assistance she has extended despite the limited resources of her office. But what I just want to highlight here is that VP Leni is one who is fully immersed in the realities of the times and is always ready to answer the call to face the most difficult challenges in her own time.

I will not preoccupy myself wondering what her answer is to 2022. Instead, I will choose to heed my Vice President’s call to focus on the tasks at hand  

With her, there is very little room to be distracted by the uncertainty of the future (the 2022 presidential election included) because everyone around her is on her toes as she demands immediate action on the imperatives of the here and now.

With her it is crystal clear that the vast majority of our people who remain poor and marginalized are probably having the toughest challenge in their lives these days.  Beginning with less meals they are able to take due to their reduced income brought about by lost jobs and disrupted livelihood.  There is also the inability of their kids to go to school or the lack of proper access to tools and equipment for those who are able to.  All these and many more as they also struggle to cope with the pandemic that continues to linger and threaten their health, well-being and lives.

Steady, strong volunteerism continues in the office of the Vice President.

Steady, strong volunteerism continues in the office of the Vice President. (Photo by Charlie Villegas)

What is also clear with VP Leni is that she still has to fulfill her mandate as Vice President. A mandate that our people has entrusted to her and she has taken to heart since the beginning of her term. Now that the annoying distraction of the sore loser’s protest is out of the way, I anticipate that VP Leni’s resolve to make the most of every opportunity to serve while in office will no doubt be even stronger in the coming days.

As such, I will not preoccupy myself wondering what her answer is to the 2022 question.  Instead, I will choose to heed my Vice President’s call to focus on the tasks and challenges at hand.

In my own humble capacity, I will work with the groups and communities I am in and together support the projects that she has taken on to help our people.  With her, I will network with various organizations and individuals to address the hunger our people are experiencing today.  I will also collaborate with other enablers to give people jobs and livelihood as well as better access to healthcare.

I will also choose to fight side by side my Vice President (not behind her) for what is true, just and decent.  I will be vigilant against lies and false information (especially those that are targeted towards her) that are designed to deceive our people.  I will report these to the various multi-media platforms that carry such fake news and information and demand that such deceptions are put down.  I will echo her advocacies for justice for the oppressed and her call-outs to the abuses of those in power.

One of these days, we will have a more categorical answer from VP Leni whether or not she will throw her hat in the 2022 presidential race.  Whatever her decision will be or no matter where destiny leads her, all I have is gratitude for the privilege she has given me and all of us to serve our people alongside her as our Vice President.

Until then, I encourage others to proactively collaborate with her and together find more ways to reach those who are in most need. She has often stated that our people deserve better services and they must not wait any longer. So why wait for 2022 when we can already rally around her to serve our people?

I say, Now na!!!

While there is no argument that 2022 Presidential election outcome will dramatically define the next chapter of our country, I also believe in what wiser people have reminded us that “what we do today is what will define our future.”

History has also taught me this truism through another widow I once worked for as well.  A widow who time and again reminded us to just focus on the work at hand and not mind too much what other people have to say about us.  A widow who remained faithful to her discerned mission to become the light of hope amid the darkness of the selfishness and greed of those who wished to perpetuate their evil ways.  A widow who also reluctantly took on the leadership of her country and humbly admitted that her rise to power rested on the people who have also resolved to fight with her in the battle for truth, justice and decency.

Remembering PEOPLE POWER 35 years ago.

Digital art by Jamike Lopa juxtaposes former President Cory Aquino and Vice President Leni Robredo—two widows facing the challenges of today’s democracy

About author

Articles

He is the author of “To Love Another Day,” the memoirs of democracy icon Corazon Aquino. He continues to work with NGOs—evidently one of the Filipinos who continue to believe in the Filipino.
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