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Opinion

The soul, heart, and conscience of Leni Robredo

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

I always say that to be ready for the presidency, one should have the brains of Diosdado Macapagal and Manuel Roxas (both number one in the bar), the heart of Ramon Magsaysay and Sergio Osmeña Sr, the passion of Manuel Quezon, the spirituality of Cory Aquino, the bravery of Emilio Aguinaldo, and the prudence of Carlos P Garcia. It is not easy to be the leader of 110 million Filipinos, more than 60 million of whom are poor, and the commander-in-chief to defend 7,107 islands and to save a nation being besieged by pandemic, poverty, social injustice, crimes, corruption and hopelessness.

Let us look at the soul, heart and conscience of Leni Robredo.

Maria Leonor Santo Tomas Gerona-Robredo was born on April 23, 1965. His father was a regional trial court judge. She obtained her basic education in the Universidad de Santa Isabel in Naga, graduating in elementary school in 1978 and high school in 1982. She earned her bachelor's degree from UP Diliman in 1986. She completed her law studies in the University of Nueva Caceres in 1992. She passed the bar in 1996. She worked in the Public Attorney's Office. She was already married to Jesse Robredo when she was in law school, and Jesse was mayor of Naga City when she was practicing law as a public attorney. She ran and won as representative of the third district of Camarines Sur, beating Nelly F Villafuerte, the wife of political kingpin Luis Villafurte.

When her husband died in a helicopter crash, she had to stand firm and bold, taking care of her three daughters, Aika, Tricia and Jilian. But when the Liberal Party needed someone to run against the powerful Villafuerte family dynasty, she boldly stood up to accept the challenge. When the term of President Benigno S Aquino III was about to expire and Mar Roxas, the anointed LP presidential candidate, was scouting for a vice presidential team mate, the president had to go to Naga City to plead to Leni to accept the bigger challenge. She had no money, no national organization and no logistics. But after convincing her three girls and her mother, she said yes, and the rest is history.

No one ever expected that she would prevail over more moneyed candidates like Bongbong Marcos. But she did defeat Marcos with 14,418,817 votes and was ahead of Bongbong by 263,473 votes. The protest filed by Marcos was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

In 2016, VP Leni accepted the president's offer to head the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, following the tracks of former vice presidents Noli de Castro and Jojo Binay. In December 2016, the Cabinet secretary informed her that she was no longer invited to Cabinet meetings.

The president's supporters attempted to impeach her for issuing criticism against the president publicly, but the attempt did not materialize. VP Leni is always the first to arrive in disaster areas in all major typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The president's men did not like that. She had to quit her official post because it was fast becoming incompatible with her stand on major issues to remain in the president's official family. VP Leni led the opposition campaign in the 2019 midterm elections.

VP Leni had been conferred a number of prestigious awards here and abroad. The whole world watches her as she tries to maneuver her way vis-a-vis an adversarial and antagonistic administration. She had to operate her office on a shoe-string budget, and she had to stand up and express her criticisms against violations of human rights and affront against women, and the poor. In all her words, actions and decisions, she tried her best to swim with the current in matters of styles, but stood like a rock when it came to matters of principles.

I think that, with the masses' support, and a lot of help from the middle class, the youth, civil society, labor and progressive groups, church organizations, and the business sector, VP Leni is ready to take on the presidency. But she needs to conquer the better and more moneyed opponents, and make sure that the counting machines do not cheat again. She has a high mountain to climb, but with the people's massive support, and in God's time, a new Joan of Arc and Gabriela Silang may yet surprise us all.

LENI ROBREDO
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