To make a president (2)
In a commentary titled “To make a president” (Opinion, 10/15/15), I made the fearless forecast that Leni Robredo will emerge vice president in the May 9 elections. I ventured to say she will carry the “Ro-Ro” tandem, providing the fresh, nontraditional-politician element on a platform of sustained, effective and noncorrupt governance over a 12-year period (2016-2028). The premise was that she will be a great VP, proactive in inclusive development by a Ro-Ro administration in 2016-2022, then continue on as president in 2022-2028. The other premise was that she will remain a nontraditional politician and deliver on what the Filipino people expect: inspiring and transformational leadership as VP. And she will empower Filipinos, particularly those in the peripheries—laylayan—of society, for individual and collective liberation from the bondage of poverty.
Ro-Ro indeed won, but the first “Ro” was Rodrigo Duterte, and not Mar Roxas. VP Leni will then have to define by herself the agenda she will pursue. She will have to continue the authentic character she portrayed in the campaign, and stick to her late husband Jesse Robredo’s “tsinelas leadership.” It is not advisable—though it has been confirmed as not possible, anyway—that she join the Duterte Cabinet, as her aspirations for Filipinos to experience integrated human development may be opposed to the fundamental thrusts that the incoming administration declares, specifically on the matter of absolute respect for human life. She can support the programs she will agree with, but not as part of the new President’s official family.
VP Leni will be her own man. After all, she managed to be the “last man standing” after an intense and often brutal campaign. Her consistency in attributing her political blossoming to divine intervention is providing the framework within which her role in governance will play out. When the canvass by Congress was done and she was proclaimed vice president exactly on Jesse’s birthday, her statement was: “If this is not providential, what do you call it?”
It is uncanny that the country now has as its VP a person who will not dichotomize between her faith and her human reality. She recognizes that she cannot be in this position, a heartbeat away from the most important responsibility in the government, without the divine hand making it so. In 2013 she was a reluctant candidate for a seat in the House, her first elective public office. The circumstances of her brief preparation for the successful national political run support this unassailable observation. If she will stay in this disposition, she will be able to “depoliticize” her vice presidency. She can work to push her advocacies without risk of anyone deriding her as campaigning to be president. She does not need to campaign, at any rate. Becoming VP was never in her career radar. Becoming president will be exclusively a divine call, even if that were to happen in 2022 yet, if it is meant to be.
VP Leni does not have to seek to be president. She will simply serve the Filipino people, as she is mandated, beginning noon of June 30.
The propoor agenda covers a very broad landscape. There are many private initiatives quietly ongoing in pursuit of this agenda. VP Leni will have to quietly touch base with these private initiatives. Microfinance is one specific institutional initiative. The workers’ cooperatives movement is another, and it can be the optimal response to the challenge of labor contractualization.
Pushing appropriate and tested business models for agricultural development that will directly increase farmers’ incomes is an initiative in the works. Housing-cum-livelihood models are available. Once VP Leni gets to appreciate the merits of these initiatives, the gaps she can fill up—not for access to government resources which are not for her to commit, but by assigning the credibility her person and position carry, as an AAA rating to a worthy cause—may serve to move the initiatives forward.
She can champion the causes. She can be a unifying spirit for the various efforts done by many for one purpose recognized as under one providence.
There are initiatives that address the interests of overseas Filipino workers. She can champion these, too—not to overlap on what government agencies are doing, but to augment the efforts of the private sector.
VP Leni is the seventh vice president since Edsa I, after Doy Laurel, Erap Estrada, Gloria
Arroyo, Tito Guingona, Noli de Castro and Jojo Binay. She is the only neophyte political figure to become vice president. Her rise to the position is unprecedented. She made a deliberate decision to pursue her campaign not as Jesse Robredo’s widow; she ran on her own merits and, indeed, as she says, she will make her husband proud. Her meteoric rise is one for the books.
But the real story is still being told. She can be the transformative leader so passionately sought. Look at the people around her, and one can see youth and gender-neutrality. The tenor of her campaign was aboveboard, focusing on issues and not on personality, pushed with decency and respect. She and her campaign demonstrated that with hard work, persistence and perseverance, a national campaign can be won from the ground.
Here’s another fearless forecast: Leni Robredo will be the Philippines’ 17th president. She will be ready when her time comes.
Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and now a business consultant.
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