‘Ikaw na iyong lider namin': Opposition leader Robredo passes torch to Hontiveros

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo christened Sen. Risa Hontiveros as the next leader of the opposition after the lawmaker took her oath before the second-highest elected official on Monday.

“Ikaw na iyong lider namin,” Robredo said in her speech after administering Hontiveros’ oath of office, recalling a text message she sent to the opposition senator after it became apparent that she would clinch a seat in the upper chamber. “Kaya please know na nasa likod mo lang kami. Nasa likod mo lang kami, tutulong kung kailan mo kami kailangan.”

(You are now our leader. So please know that we are always behind you. We are always behind you and we’re going to help you if needed.)

Under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, Robredo served as de facto opposition leader as the highest elected official coming from their ranks. Among the key policies she opposed was the brutality in the flagship campaign against illegal drugs that saw thousands of drug suspects killed in police operations and by vigilantes.

But with Robredo having lost the presidential race to President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and her running mate, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, losing to Vice President-elect Sara Duterte, Hontiveros is now the highest elected official from the opposition.

Shrinking space

“Lahat kami masaya na ikaw iyong natitirang humahawak ng ating bandila. Kampante kami. Kampante kami na patuloy mong ipapakipaglaban iyong lahat ng pinaniniwalaan natin kung ano iyong mabuti at tama sa pamamahala,” Robredo said.

(We are all happy that you are the one remaining holding our flag. We are confident. We are confident that you will continue fighting for what we believe to be good and right in governance.)

The opposition was decimated further in the May polls, with Hontiveros being the lone senatorial candidate from their ranks to win a seat in the upper house, while the rest of those under the Robredo-Pangilinan ticket and the slate of opposition coalition 1Sambayan lost their bids.

The shrinking space for the opposition is evident even in the House of Representatives, where the progressive Makabayan bloc was cut down in half to just three members in the coming Congress.

We are your soldiers

Despite this, Robredo had nothing but words of assurance for Hontiveros, who is now faced with the task of leading and possibly even uniting the opposition against a formidable opponent with a congressional supermajority.

“Kami ang mga sundalo mo na ngayon, Sen. Risa,” Robredo said. “Kung paano mo sinuportahan ang sambayanang Pilipino, ganoon din iyong suportang aasahan mo sa amin.”

(We are your soldiers now … We will support you in the same way that you supported the Filipino people.)

Hontiveros said she will continue working with Robredo, other opposition leaders, parties and movements to address inequality.

“Pararamihin natin ang mga Pilipinong nakikibahagi sa proseso ng demokrasya, upang maramdaman ng mas marami pa ang mga resulta nito,” Hontiveros said.

(We will multiply the number of Filipinos sharing in the process of democracy so more would feel the results of this.)

She also vowed to fight back against disinformation, one of the key factors in the massive victory of Marcos and Duterte in the elections.

“We will fight back harder, against rumors, lies, propaganda, and fake news. Let me make this even clearer: this is a stern warning to all the dubious characters in the fake news universe: This time, we will not let your reckless disregard for truth slander our democracy — our country — ever again,” Hontiveros said.

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