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If we had Grace, we would have had no Leni

12:17 AM June 01, 2016

When Sen. Grace Poe refused the offer to run for vice president with Mar Roxas, we were crestfallen. We thought they were a power team. But when she run for president against Roxas, we were disenchanted.

She had left the country once, renounced us, and then she comes back, and hardly completing her Senate term, asks us to grant her the highest honor that any Filipino can have in a lifetime—the presidency of the land! And she hardly had any marks in her hands, feet or heart to show for her labor of love for our country, for our people, for our poor.

Poe could have been our vice president, but then we would have had no Leni Robredo.

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The first time we heard about Leni was through a posting about a conversation people had with her on a wide range of issues. They were all impressed by her intelligence, her insights, her competence, her grassroots experience, and her love for the poor.  She had practically spent all of her life fighting for justice for the poor, taking that fight to far-flung barrios, even as she had to traverse unfamiliar lands and cross rivers to meet with them.

The Sumilao farmers, for whose rightful claim to their land she fought for years, never forgot her. When it was her turn to fight the greatest battle in her life, the farmers returned the favor by being there for her, as they again marched as they did in 2006, and this time for her victory.

With her approval to be Roxas’ vice president, the Mar-Leni team was forged. It was the perfect team to move our country forward. They likened their team to cooking “bibingka,” with fire below and fire above. The fire above was Mar and his leadership in the realm of national and global issues; the fire below was Leni and her leadership in the realm of local and grassroots issues. Their program was not only coherent; it was broad as its reach went from urban to rural. “Lahat ay mabibigyan ng alaga at pag-aaruga” (Everybody will be attended to and taken care of).

But then Mar lost. And we grieved, mourned and wept for the loss of a true patriot and statesman. Never have we shed tears of loss for a candidate. Never have we mourned and grieved, but this was a loss like no other. It was a loss for the country we love. And like death, this loss was irreversible; it was final. And our hearts were broken, beyond repair. Mar fought the battle with honor, as he stood with dignity against the most vicious black propaganda ever crafted by malevolent minds against a candidate.

But he was vindicated by the turn of events. Days before the May 9 elections, Rep. Martin Romualdez of Leyte finally told the truth: Mar indeed risked his life for the people of the “Yolanda”-stricken islands of Leyte and Samar. And on May 9 these people gave him a landslide victory in that region. The people knew who was truly with them in their deepest need and in their darkest hours.

And the trains have arrived, as Mar promised. But no one believed him then. He was mocked and vilified for his alleged incompetence in not being able to solve the traffic and MRT problems.  But not only have the trains arrived. Now under construction is the massive infrastructure that will decongest Metro Manila as it will connect the country’s business and political hubs to surrounding provinces, thus making travel between Metro Manila and these provinces faster, and economic interactions more convenient. When these projects shall have been completed, people will see what Mar promised: the best that was still to come—a truly progressive and cosmopolitan Philippines, complementing yet an economy now globally praised as the fastest-growing in Asia.

When Mar conceded with honor, without rancor and bitterness, he carved a special place in our hearts and a distinguished place in our history. Even in his defeat, his final word was love for country. And it is this love for country that makes both President Aquino and him patriots and statesmen of the highest order. P-Noy shall forever be remembered as the president who labored for six years to transform this country from being “the sick man of Asia” into the rising, new “Asian Tiger,” with a $30 trillion-economic trajectory!

Mar will also be remembered as the man who gave up his own run for presidency in 2010 to give way to P-Noy, for love of country. “Bayan muna bago sarili” (The nation first before one’s self).  It will be a long time till we shall have, again, men of such stature and love for country. Their legacy will live on forever!

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With the loss of Mar, we all at first found ourselves in darkness, wailing, mourning and grieving. But with Leni’s win, some light has come through the darkness; and we are now finding our way through it, guided by the light. Leni shall be our guiding, inspiring, empowering light as we continue our fight for justice, freedom and democracy.

Dylan Thomas wrote: “Do not go gentle into that good night; Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”

And we shall draw from the enduring promise of the Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness; and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn. 1:5).

Yes, had we had Grace, we would have had no Leni. The divine strategy was beyond our understanding, then; but now we know, now we understand. And for this we are truly grateful to the God of history, to the God of the universe.

Christina A. Astorga is the chair and a professor of the Theology Department of the University of Portland, Oregon, USA.

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TAGS: Elections 2016, Grace Poe, leni robredo
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