Leni Robredo’s call to arms
Imagine,” Vice President Leni Robredo said, what else her office, staff, and volunteers could accomplish after everything they did to pull ordinary folk nationwide from the abyss, in the face of restrictions and obstacles thrown their way. It was a powerful moment in a stirring speech she delivered to announce that, yes, she would seek the presidency in the 2022 elections. Delivered mostly in Filipino in words both casual and profound, addressing, as in a Christmas song, “the hopes and fears of all the years,” her message could not but hit home: When we stand together, the possibilities are endless. She—we—will fight. “Lalaban ako. Lalaban tayo.”
It was extraordinary, mused the observer long wearied by the cheap talk of government talking heads and pols coveting votes. When Leni Robredo finally announced her intentions on Oct. 7, her language was thoughtful and eloquent, her style simple and uncontrived. How refreshing to hear, not words trailing into nothing but coherent and complete sentences, the speaker respectful of her audience: a straight talker who found no need for BS to define the quest for the presidency in terms of what it’s not—a matter of ego, a mere acquiescence to the clamor of others, a transactional operation.
Nor did she resort to bombast to name the root of prolonged public suffering as the absence of good governance. And having done so, she presented the imperative task: To break free of the status quo, it is necessary to change not merely the surnames of those holding power but also the prevailing corruption, incompetence, and indifference to those on the edges of society, and install sensible and efficient leadership.
Here’s a pallid translation of a critical question she posed, to check the nuts and bolts of the stance a presidential candidate should take in seeking the post: If you will not be clear in your aims, if you will seek to compromise, if you will be unable to even say that wrong is wrong, on whose side are you really on?
The occasion was dramatic, and deservedly so. That her audience—whether admiring or disdainful, supporter or enemy—hung on to her words was telling of the high interest with which the result of her considerations was awaited. This woman would, after all, make the difference in the festering political landscape (what Steinbeck might call the “drums of daily doom”). When she emerged from a deemed dithering, she did so with astute acknowledgment of what lies ahead, to which she would respond with motives clear, strategy identified, and positioning calculated. Who among the other proclaimed aspirants have laid their cards on the table in as straightforward a manner?
As she has demonstrated time and again, Leni Robredo is no wimp in the face of Malacañang’s unrelenting hostility, or a slouch in assessing the situation and coming to the aid of those in the greatest need of help. Her track record is open to those casting about for someone who might provide a light in this darkness, as well as those displaying a startling, or in fact willful, ignorance of her capabilities. In rallying her troops, she listed what the Office of the Vice President had managed, despite limitations and harassment, to bring to the impoverished and the sectors left to flounder as the pandemic took brutal hold. The programs are doubtless familiar to those helped, and informative to those who mean to examine and compare: the housing; the “ayuda” and medical and livelihood assistance; the aid and comfort to the stricken; the “pailaw” and classrooms and dorms; the Vaccine Express, Swab Cab, Bayanihan e-Konsulta, Bayanihan e-Skwela, TrabaHOPE, and Community Marts; the free shuttle services and personal protective equipment … All, she said, mounted and carried out through their collective will and strength.
Her recitation, because capable of withstanding scrutiny, was at once affirmation and challenge.
That Leni Robredo’s call to arms resonated among many was quickly made obvious in the battleground for hearts and minds. Number-crunchers would concede that she clinched the figures even without a paid troll army. Even the skeptic wary of political noise would note that hope, close to extinction in the landscape littered by pols bereft of shame, was suddenly resurgent.
Big business searching for a way out of the economic swamp would do well to look in her direction. “Buong buo ang loob ko,” she said. She’s strong as hell.
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