Why not Leni?

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2020 - 12:00am

I am often typecast as being pro-Liberal or dilawan, as people call it these days. Most people, especially those from political and business circles, freely make that assumption since my mother-in-law was a part of Cory’s Cabinet and is a close friend to the Aquino family.

What many may not know is that my own mother was one of Imelda’s Blue Ladies. My family’s relationship with the Marcoses run deep. It began with my grandfather who was a former government official and a staunch supporter of the strongman.

Notwithstanding the political leanings of both sides of my family, I was among the many radical students who called for Marcos’ resignation during the EDSA Revolution. When Noynoy Aquino ran for president in 2010, I supported Gilbert Teodoro and was even in charge of managing his army of volunteers. My point is, despite familial alliances, my loyalties have always been to the country and who I think best serves her interest.

That said, let me talk about the presidential race for 2022. Even now, murmurs are rife as to who will be running. President Duterte himself has been unabashedly vocal about ensuring the winnability of his “anointed one,” whoever it may be.

A few weeks ago, the President viciously attacked Vice President Leni Robredo and warned her not to upstage him. “Next time, do not make a mistake… Nagpapa-beauty ka (do not grandstand)…” the President said. He further warned that should she run for the presidency, he will make it a “nightmare” for her.

The vehement reaction of the President caught many by surprise. After all, VP Leni’s approval rating of 57 percent is far from the President’s 91 percent, according to Pulse Asia. The President’s reaction suggests that VP Leni is indeed a threat despite the difference in ratings. Come to think of it, if there is anything we learned about the recent US elections, public surveys do not always reflect in electoral votes.

Leni’s ratings, coupled with the incessant propaganda against her, have lead many to declare her unwinnable. But is she really? As we have seen many times before, political tides can change even in the last week of an electoral race. We should know better than to discount any candidate at this juncture.

Before I state my case, we should also get one thing straight – VP Leni should not be blamed for the mis-steps of the last administration. Doing so is grossly unfair. It is like holding a cheerleader responsible for a lost game where the coach called the shots. Just because she is a member of the Liberal Party doesn’t mean she was responsible for its shortcomings. People forget that between 2013 and 2016, Leni was a member of the House, a branch of government separate and independent from the Executive. There, she advocated good governance and public accountability. She had nothing to do with the blunders of the executive branch, many of which our people are constantly reminded of by the trolls.

Fact is, VP Leni spent the better part of the Aquino administration as a productive legislator who fought for the Freedom of Information Act and the Bangsamoro Basic Law. She authored the Full Disclosure Policy Bill to realize greater transparency in government. She was (and still is) a defender of the marginalized, having sponsored the Open Door Policy Act, the People Empowerment Bill and the Anti-Discrimination Bill.

So why do I think VP Leni is the right person to be president? The longsuffering widow offers the opportunity to reboot public governance and set it back on course of transparency, honesty, decency, inclusiveness and the tenets of democracy. Human right must be held primordial again. The law must be enforced among all, without granting exemptions to friends and allies. National reconciliation must take precedence over personal revenge. And above all, the protection of our sovereign rights to the West Philippine Sea must be upheld without a hint of compromise.

In the past four years, the President’s leadership style has undermined some of the principles of good governance. And so we need to get centered again. Not to do so could cause our institutions to swing to the extreme where non-democratic principles, corruption and incivility become the new norm. Let us not forget, when certain traits become a part of the culture, it is extremely difficult to reverse. Take the culture of corruption instilled by Marcos.

This is not to minimize the many achievements of the Duterte administration. I have been vocal about how this government has positively transformed the country in many ways. We give credit for prioritizing infrastructure, for establishing the Anti-Red Tape Authority, for bringing down unemployment and poverty rates (pre-COVID) and for initiating the digitization of government agencies, among others. These are legacies that will endure and make the nation stronger.

But, as I said, we need to restore the tenets of good governance to move forward in a democratic and dignified manner.

The pandemic revealed many weaknesses in our institutions. It exposed the shortfalls in our public healthcare system. It uncovered horrendous corruption scams like that in PhilHealth. It bared to view the many ways in which public funds are habitually diverted to congressmen’s pork barrel and aid for the displaced diverted to dubious LGU officials. It exposed our minuscule capabilities in science and technology and the pittance government spends to support our scientists. It confirmed that we are not competitive enough to attract our fair share of foreign capital to fill our budget gap.

To solve these weaknesses, we need a leader who has the grit and determination to push reforms regardless of its difficulty and how unpopular they are. The Vice President has proven to have the fortitude to do what must be done even amid relentless persecution, deprivation of resources and attacks to her person. Under immense pressure, the Vice President has not only endured, she soared.

She displayed impressive resourcefulness, able to accomplish much with meager resources. Her accomplishments come on the back of an impeccable work ethic and old fashioned hard work. Above all, she lives a simple life and has a clean record as far as corruption is concerned. The fact that she is not motivated by money augers well when political or business interests get in the way of reforms, as they always do.

VP Leni may be behind in popularity ratings today but it would be foolish to discount her. Viewed without political bias, seriously, why not Leni?

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E-mail: andrew_rs6@yahoo.com. Twitter @aj_masigan

LENI ROBREDO
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