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Five reasons Leni Robredo will surprise

/ 04:04 AM October 19, 2021

Now that Vice President Leni Robredo has declared her candidacy for president, the choices are clearer. So far, those who have thrown their hats into the ring are offering more of the same “trapo” variations, differing only in shades and colors. Robredo, however, is spot-on in her assessment of the root cause of the problems the country is facing today: incompetent, corrupt, and insensitive governance.

Her delivery of her speech announcing her candidacy was stirring, the words well-chosen. The battle cry “lalaban tayo” reminds one of the “nanlaban” narrative that policemen have used to justify the killings of victims in “tokhang” operations.

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Politicians have belittled Robredo’s strength by highlighting her low rating in surveys and deliberately glossing over her achievements. However, she has shown political savvy and keen instincts for political survival. Those who underestimate her will be in for a big surprise. Here are five reasons.

First, 14,436,337 voters elected Robredo in 2016. This is a solid base and could increase if she plays her cards right in the coming months.

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Second, Robredo is antifragile. In his book “Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder,” Nassim Nicholas Taleb developed the concept of antifragility as something more than just being robust. It is the quality not only to withstand chaos, but actually to improve because of it. To illustrate, an airline company that stopped operations due to the adverse effects of COVID-19 is fragile; but a delivery service company that grew because of the pandemic is antifragile. The Office of the Vice President (OVP), with widespread support from private donors, thrived during the crisis, delivering timely services and supplies to frontliners as well as those in marginalized, overlooked communities.

Third, her proven administrative capability. The OVP has earned the highest audit rating from the Commission on Audit (COA) for three consecutive years, in stark contrast to the red flags that the COA issued to various agencies under the Duterte administration in its 2020 report.

Fourth, Robredo’s character. President Duterte challenged Robredo to join his Cabinet as Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chair in 2016 and as anti-

illegal drug czar in 2019. She accepted, against the advice of well-meaning supporters. Walking into hostile Cabinet meetings required tremendous courage and determination. Another example is the manner she responded to the personal attacks against her by Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso. By calling out the crassness of the comments without being drawn into a low level of discourse, she revealed sterling character, and the opposite in her critic.

Fifth, Robredo understands the dynamics of the new politics and how social media has empowered the individual. A netizen can broadcast his ideas without getting approval from anyone. Citizens can function as volunteer groups without the consent of the government, as exemplified by the community pantry movement. Traditional political parties are losing their grip on members. The once-dominant Liberal Party is decimated; the vaunted PDP-Laban is breaking up. By identifying herself as an independent and positioning her candidacy as not about herself, she is inviting individuals to be vested in the mission of bringing about meaningful change for the country.

This is a season of discontent. Patients are refused admission in hospitals because there are no beds available. Government officials cannot account for the billions of people’s money transferred to an undercapitalized corporation whose executives, after a few months of operation, bought luxury cars as though they were buying the latest models from Toys “R” Us. The country has earned the dubious distinction of being last out of 53 countries in Bloomberg’s COVID-19 Resilience Report, and again last out of 121 countries in Nikkei’s COVID-19 Recovery Index.

Amid festering issues of gross incompetence and corruption in government, Robredo’s candidacy is a whiff of fresh air and hope. She will yet surprise the nation.

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Tomas C. Vargas, 69, is a retiree.

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TAGS: 2022 polls, Elections, Leni Robredo
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