Second chances

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Most of the popular names touted to run as candidates in the upcoming presidential race next year are incumbent national and local government officials. But while we are mostly focused among the presidential wannabes in the coming May 9, 2022 polls, we do not see an equal enthusiasm in the elections for the next Vice President of the country.

Like President Rodrigo Duterte, Vice President Leni Robredo is also stepping down from office at noon of June 30, 2022.

President Duterte is set to deliver his last and final state of the nation address today at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City. Malacañang doused speculations that the outgoing Chief Executive might talk about his political plans when he usually extemporizes from his prepared speech.

This after President Duterte already sounded out Filipino voters that he may consider to run and get elected as the next Vice President of the country. VP Leni, on the other hand, has kept her cards close to her chest. She has yet to make a firm decision while her Liberal Party (LP) partymates await her final word on being drafted as their presidential standard-bearer.

VP Leni last week though raised a scenario she won’t be like President Duterte in more ways than one. This early, she promised she will give a portfolio Cabinet Department to whoever will be elected as new Vice President. For all intents and purposes, Mrs. Robredo practically hinted she is now considering the LP presidential draft. There were coffeeshop talks earlier about the purported plans of the former congresswoman of Camarines Sur to run for Governor. The rumors erupted after she registered in her home province for the national ID system.

If by chance the opposition parties get its acts together and unite behind Robredo, she might indeed win as the new President of the Philippines. With President Duterte keeping his double-digit approval and trust ratings, the former Davao City Mayor also might win to become the next Vice President of the country.

If this happens, it’s only in the Philippines that the two highest elected officials of our country will just switch places when their terms end.

Perhaps, much to the administration’s chagrin, VP Leni is still showing us the kind of leadership we need right now in our country’s battle to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. As the second-in-command supposedly in the hierarchy of the government, she doesn’t play high politics with the powers and mandate of the Vice President under our country’s 1987 Constitution. Under-budgeted, with little to no support from the so-called “father of the nation,” VP Leni works as the recognized “mother” to keep as many Filipino families afloat in this pandemic.

The Vaccine Express of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) – currently on its second run in Manila – is now also on its way to Naga City with the arrival of 6,000 doses of the one-time jab of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Concurrently ongoing are the OVP’s Swab Cab initiatives taking place in several parts of the country as well as the Bayanihan e-Konsulta operating for free.

Each of these projects has clear objectives and beneficiaries, with systems in place that offer encouragement and incentives rather than threats and posturing. The first Vaccine Express run offered a P500 worth of gas card incentive. Last week’s run offered goodie bags filled with food supplies for the drivers and their families.

While many wannabes populate the news cycle with hints of candidacies in next year’s national and local elections, it’s noteworthy to see how VP Leni just works. She maybe the highest LP elected official but VP Leni has demonstrated her capacity and capability to work beyond partisan considerations.

In the name of public service, she partners with anyone in the likes of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno who is a potential contender for higher office in the coming May 9, 2022 elections. The 46-year old Mayor of Manila has been ranking among the top three voters’ choice in mock opinion polls, either as most preferred candidate in the presidential race or in the VP post. Or even with any known Duterte supporter, VP Leni would break bread if it means serving her constituents better and getting help where it’s needed. She is a beacon of hope and comfort that not all Filipino leaders are nothing but traditional politicians.

Which probably explains why it’s always a nice feeling dropping by her personal Facebook account where she posts bite-sized OVP updates in between charming and heartwarming stories about her husband and three daughters, and life in general. Many contend the use of this new hashtag called #MamaLeni, most of the arguments against it cite the country’s need for a leader, not a mother. To each their own, of course. But for what’s its worth, at least we have VP Leni who is excellent at being both.

For now, the only declared tandem to run as presidential and VP candidates in the 2022 elections are Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, respectively. As the chairman of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Sotto earlier disclosed, they have established “alliance” with the Reporma Party of Davao del Norte Rep. Panteleon Alvarez who has drafted Lacson as their presidential standard-bearer.

So far, the NPC-Reporma alliance has announced that at least 10 of the 12-man Senate ticket would run with the Lacson-Sotto team. Over the weekend, former Vice President Jejomar Binay was added to the Senate slate of Lacson-Sotto tandem. Then it follows, ex-VP Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) will not be far behind to join forces with the NPC-Reporma “alliance.” The Senate bid of Binay, however, will put an end to his pending protest at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal where he questioned the closely fought Makati congressional race during the May, 2019 which he lost to former Makati vice mayor Kit Peña.

Among politicians, there is always second chances for them. If a politician loses the first time, he or she can become recyclable.

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